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Senator: Work from home to reduce Washington gridlock

(AP file photo/Elaine Thompson)

A Washington senator wants to reduce gridlock in Washington by incentivizing businesses that allow employees to telecommute.

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Senator Kevin Van de Wege of Sequim is sponsoring a bill that, if passed during the next legislative session, would give companies a tax break for allowing employees to work remotely.

Commuting “accounts for more trips and miles traveled than any other single
transportation purpose,” Van de Wege’s bill states.

The bill would offer a $500 per employee tax credit. Employees would have to work remotely at least 12 days out of the month.

The cap for the tax break is set — at this point — to $20,000. It is flexible.

“It’s very common with tax credits to put caps on them because we don’t know how many employers are going to go and use this tax credit,” Van de Wege said. “It helps the state be able to budget for tax credits …”

But, “if this is something that’s enacted and something that’s popular, then we can raise those allotments fairly easily to allow more employers to take advantage of it.”

His bill only addresses the private sector, however. But why not get government offices to do the same?

“I haven’t thought about it yet … but you’re absolutely right,” he said. “There are a lot of people on the road at the same time that creates a lot of the gridlock in the Puget Sound, so anyway we can decrease that is going to be beneficial.

“But the cheapest way for government to decrease [girdlock] is by incentivizing people to stay at home, as opposed to building more infrastructure.”

As Washington’s population continues to grow, so does congestion, especially in the Puget Sound region. According to the latest from the Washington State Department of Transportation, drivers traveling 23 miles from Everett to Seattle during morning commutes should give themselves more than an hour in order to guarantee they will arrive on time. And while taxpayers approved to give Sound Transit billions more to expand light rail throughout the region, the 62-mile expansion won’t be complete until after 2030.

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