By Jonathan Kaminsky Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats on Tuesday promoted a package of bills aimed at bringing more skilled jobs to the state.
Speaking at a news conference, two lawmakers highlighted a wide swath of proposed legislation encompassing everything from helping military spouses find work to attracting investment in aerospace technology.
“There’s no silver bullet to do an economic development,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. “It’s a lot more like silver buckshot.”
Broadly, the measures are intended to help train the state’s workforce, improve infrastructure, and promote investment and entrepreneurship — priorities identified by the state’s Economic Development Commission in a 2009 report.
Rather than focusing on recruiting companies to Washington, the commission’s plan calls for attempting to grow companies from within the state.
“The fact that these legislative pieces have found alignment is very encouraging,” said Egils Milbergs, executive director of the commission. “These are initiatives that are oriented to a long-term strategy.”
Some of the bills are targeted at easing regulations for business. One would allow companies to file most paperwork with state agencies electronically. Another makes it harder for agencies to tack on violations to companies already facing penalties.
Others are focused on rewarding success. One bill would offer tax incentives for companies that make more money after forming industry trade groups for tasks including product marketing, quality control and worker training.
Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, emphasized that a well-trained labor force is essential for Washington to compete for high-paying jobs.
“We don’t have a jobs shortage in Washington state,” said Kastama. “We have a skills shortage.”
The state’s Employment Security Department reported that there were 60,000 unfilled jobs — both skilled and unskilled — in Washington state last April.
All of the bills highlighted Tuesday are still alive and many stand a good chance of being passed into law, said Kilmer.
Messages left with key Republicans in the Senate were not immediately returned Tuesday.