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Todd Herman

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Rep. Walsh: Washington business tax credit counters Seattle’s ‘childish behavior’

Seattle passed a head tax on the city's largest employers like Amazon in May 2018. (AP)

State Representative Jim Walsh says that a proposed business tax credit in Washington not only aims to work against Seattle’s head tax, but also counters the city’s “childish behavior.”

RELATED: Seattle council coordinated head tax coverage with activists

“In many ways, we are still paying the price for the eccentricities of Seattle, this sort of childish behavior,” Walsh told KTTH Radio’s Jason Rantz. “We don’t mind that, but there are limits to how much we can indulge them in their juvenile behavior.”

A group of state lawmakers, spearheaded by State Senator Steve O’Ban, has crafted a business tax credit for bringing jobs to distressed counties. Walsh calls the bill a “very elegant piece of legislation.” It would offer a $275 per employee tax credit to companies that locate in certain counties. The $275 aligns with the head tax that Seattle aims to impose on its largest companies.

washington business tax credit

The Washington business tax credit aims to attract businesses to the counties in green. (State Representative Jim Walsh)

Walsh says lawmakers hope to attract out-of-state companies. It would target counties that have 25 percent higher unemployment than other state counties — 16 counties in the state. That’s an unemployment rate of about 6 percent. All five counties in the 19th Legislative District that Walsh represents would qualify (Cowlitz, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Wahkiakum). And it would only go toward companies that create jobs with higher salaries than the average wage in the county.

Walsh boasts that the 19th Legislative District has low overhead, and great access to transportation. So manufacturing and transportation companies would fit well in his area.

“Not as much traffic on the roads, direct access to rail and port terminals – easy in and easy out, basically,” Walsh said. “So we’re looking for those kinds of things – manufacturing, transportation, and storage and transportation.”

State lawmakers are not the only officials trying to benefit from Seattle’s head tax. Cities in Pierce County are coordinating their business tax credits to counter Seattle’s efforts. They have even produced a commercial announcing that Pierce County does not have a head tax.

Seattle vs proposed business tax credit

The goal of the proposed business tax credit is to add new economic activity to the state. Walsh argues that Seattle’s anti-business rhetoric hurts the state, overall.

“It’s giving us a black eye, at least in terms of public relations,” he said. “It certainly makes the state look like we’re dominated by the extremists on the Seattle City Council, and some of their enablers in Olympia. And we’re not. Those people don’t speak for all of us.”

“This is a large, diverse state and we indulge Seattle and its eccentricities sometimes, but we may have done a little too much of that and I think we have to right our ship for the State of Washington,” Walsh said. “We have to remind people, and get the message out that the eccentrics in Seattle don’t speak for the whole state and we are open for business in places that would like to have business.”

Walsh calls out Washington Governor Jay Inslee as among the “enablers” of Seattle extremists and says that he and others practice “limousine liberalism.” On one hand they talk moderate, and on the other, they’ll “talk their native talk, which is this kind of radical hipsterism.”

“I would like to see the governor come out more strongly against the head tax and some of the other goofy income tax ideas … he doesn’t,” Walsh said. “He’s quiet on that and lets it go. It would be great if we had leadership in Olympia that drew a stronger line against that stuff, all that kind of extreme jabberwocky, frankly, and took a clearer line for rational public policy.”

“That doesn’t affect how we do business in Longview, and Kelso, and Aberdeeen,” he said. “We are still doing business the way that real people in the real economy work.”

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