By Reps. Hans Dunshee and Mike Sells
Kimberly-Clark is closing its Everett production facility, which means 750 good family wage jobs gone. Employees tell us the machines — and jobs — are going to Argentina.
The Seattle-Snohomish lumber mill just closed due to a lack of construction work. This was a lumber mill that had served the community for 50 years.
These are two recent and dramatic examples of jobs lost in our county.
We all know many more people who’ve lost their jobs. The recession and globalization are double hits on our country and state.
The question is, what do we do about it?
The old economy is leaving, and the new economy must be built.
We believe in taking bold action to actually create jobs in every corner of the state. If we are going to build out of this recession, we must be smart about the sustainable jobs of tomorrow while creating jobs today.
The jobs created are important — for the people who need work, for their families in danger of losing their homes, for simply keeping the heat on this winter, and for our economy, which needs a shot in the arm.
But creating jobs today isn’t the whole point.
These projects are about jobs tomorrow, too. They build a better Washington so that our children, and our grandchildren, can have a better life than we had.
Our approach is based on three principles:
First, the projects we build wouldn’t require new taxes or new debt.
Second, we looked for construction projects and other work that had local or federal matching funds — so whenever possible, a dollar we spent got matched by two or three other dollars, to maximize the jobs.
Third, we picked projects that were already on our state’s to-do list and could get started right away.
We are the products of two similar efforts. The first one happened during the Great Depression, when President Franklin Roosevelt knew that we couldn’t cut our way back to prosperity and instead put everybody to work, building a better America.
That’s how our grandparents managed to build the dams, bridges, schools, parks and colleges that we still use today.
The second effort happened here in Washington state in the 1970s, when Gov. Dan Evans, a Republican, made the same decision. He saw how jobless people were hurting and decided to do something, to create jobs quickly, in every corner of Washington, and to put people to work on projects that will help our economy for decades.
Gov. Evans called his plan Jobs Now, Washington’s Future.
We take inspiration from those two brave leaders. One Democrat, one Republican. A man of the Great Depression and World War II and the longest-serving governor of our state.
They had the right idea. It worked back then and it can work today.
Jobs today, jobs tomorrow
By putting people to work building infrastructure, we create jobs today and jobs tomorrow, since we’re building the foundation for a better Washington state.
Building infrastructure is a great way to (a) put a lot of people to work, (b) boost the economy all over our state and (c) create the infrastructure our citizens and businesses need to create the jobs of tomorrow.
The plan helps build infrastructure at our schools and universities, because winning the best jobs in the world requires having the best-educated workers in the world. But economic development is not always fancy high-tech buildings and university labs. Sometimes a simple repair of a sewer line or water line is what a town needs to attract commercial development. Sometimes repairing a hatchery to increase fish production gives a small town, like the ones we have along the Skykomish River, a huge economic boost.
What we could build
This plan would build a science building at the UW-Bothell branch campus, helping our local students get great jobs and helping local businesses desperate to hire more workers with science degrees. Putting up that building also creates 600 jobs for construction workers. Jobs now, jobs tomorrow.
At Everett Community College, we propose to do upgrading of a laboratory that will give students access to the latest equipment, to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. This lab is an integral part of the effort to bring Washington State University engineering degrees to Everett, which is needed so companies like Boeing hire more people from our county rather than people from California or Texas.
Fishing is also a huge part of our economy and one of our state’s first industries. The recreational fishing industry brings $1.1 billion and 14,600 jobs to our state every year.
We can increase the number of fish our natural system and hatcheries produce. Rehabilitating hatcheries along the Skykomish, repairing the fish trap at Sunset Falls and removing culverts that block fish passage will help restore our county’s recreational fishing. Construction jobs now, fishing jobs tomorrow.
In Mukilteo, a proposed project would reduce flooding and pollution in the Smugglers Cove area. Pollution is a burden we shouldn’t pass to our children. Cleaning it up now means taking responsibility. Jobs now, health tomorrow.
Funds for sewer plant projects in Snohomish, Granite Falls and Everett, along with toxic run-off projects in Bothell, create jobs while building the foundations for jobs tomorrow.
One part of Jobs Now is that half the jobs created aren’t pouring concrete or pounding nails. They’re generated by the spending of construction workers getting real paychecks. Those spin-off jobs are in health care, retail and services around each project.
Those dollars from the carpenter’s pocket create local jobs. People spend the money on putting their kids in college, buying school supplies and investing in the future.
To achieve this, we are proposing using $1 billion in bonds backed by existing revenue sources to surge infrastructure building, economic development and job creation.
No taxes will be raised. Let’s say that again: We can do this without raising a dime in taxes.
The bonds we’d issue are backed by specific revenues. This is the way we finance roads project now.
Working together for jobs
Now, business and labor don’t often unite behind something big and bold. They’re usually on opposite sides.
But on this issue, they’re united. Businesses and union workers are cooperating with each other to push for this sort of idea, because they know we need jobs right now. Not a few jobs, and not a new plan that hasn’t been tried before that might, in theory, create jobs.
They want a proven job creator. Something fast and efficient that will bring jobs everywhere, from Aberdeen to Zillah.
That’s why business and labor are backing this idea.
Jobs shouldn’t be a political football. When a worker gets laid off, we all lose. When somebody gets hired, we all win.
Let’s work together to create jobs today and the jobs of tomorrow.
About the authors
Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) is chair of the House Capital Budget Committee. Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) is chair of the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee.