A Lopez family is fighting for their farm and discussing it with the Washington senators: Very interesting! A Repub
— On Tue, 1/17/12, Jones Family Farms
From: Jones Family Farms
Subject: Re: Our conversation this evening…
Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 10:32 AM
Thanks for your time the other night. I got distracted with other things (running our business and raising our family) and am only now able to sit down and put ideas to paper.
The above qualifier is exactly the point. We and everyone we know in the productive economy are so busy with our own affairs, that imposing ever more requirements on us very rapidly reaches a breaking point for our family, business and personal health. The last thing we want to do is pend time battling the government for the right to go about our daily lives.
We raise and market natural meats, grow shellfish, and purchase and distribute wild seafood products to about four dozen stores and restaurants in San Juan County and Seattle.
In the past 10 years we have built up our business from nothing to a sizable enterprise, currently employing seven people full time. We pay out tens of thousands of dollars a year in taxes, and pump hundreds of thousands of dollars annually into our local economy. Furthermore, we are doing so based on production from land and marine resources that were sitting idle before we came along–that is the classic definition of a primary industry–if we weren’t doing it, nobody would be. It is new money into the economy, and as such has a economic multiplier far greater than most other forms of activity.
Our markets are expanding rapidly, labor availability has never been better, we are constantly improving our production skills and techniques.
And we are finding, more and more, that we need to fight tooth and claw with our local, state and federal governments for the right to operate our business. In the past few years we have seen the regulation burden explode. As a resource based business, the new assumption is that we are guilty of all kinds of hideous environmental sins, and that we can only prove ourselves innocent with our own time and money. We are battling increased regulations on the shellfish side that penalize shellfish production–the most environmentally beneficial form of food production. On the land farming side we are being hit with a one-two punch from the DOE and our county’s CAO process. What we find is that we are subject to the opinions of passersby and activist groups, an that again we are presumed guilty until we prove otherwise with our own resources.
San Juan County is currently at a nadir of agricultural production–In decades past practically the entire county was farmed, logged, burnt, mined or at least grazed. So the bountiful natural endowment we currently enjoy was largely created by agricultural uses. Now we learn that in the absence of any demonstrated problem we are subject to ruinously expensive and outrageously intrusive regulation on the assumption that our natural functions are on their last legs.
Last November we learned to our shock that our 200Sq ft, self service road side farmstand needed to be up to commercial codes in order to operate. Our stand rests on leased land, meaning that our landowners were subject to punishment for our “non compliance”, we could ill afford the extensive, pointless upgrades and we ended up having to close our stand down.
Almost monthly now we learn of some new issue that we weren’t aware of but now requires massive adjustment and investment on our part. Unfortunately, we have our own ideas how our money ought to be spent. Following care and maintenance of our family, our priority is on investing in our business and expanding production and employment.
What is happening is that start-up operations are essentially banned unless they have access to enormous amounts of capitol. Experimentation is banned too–how can we test different beaches around the island for shellfish growing potential, for example, if the process requires years and tens of thousands of dollars of studies?.
Even for an established business like our own, the regulatory pressure is to the point where we question our ability and willingness to continue. Why should we keep going if we are just going to be punished for our efforts?
All the above represents a tremendous transfer of power from the citizens of the state to an essentially unaccountable bureaucracy. It represents too an enormous transfer of wealth from the productive spheres to government, consultants and lawyers. Things have gotten so complex that I defy the average citizen on their own to even figure out what the requirements are, let alone comply with them.
And so, after 10 years of business, we have come to the realization that our biggest challenge to continued growth and success is our local, state and federal governments.
This is why when they now come to us with one hand outstretched for more money, the answer is HELL NO!! If the government needs more revenue, leave us alone and let us grow our business. We have children in school, we are dependent on the ferry system, we enjoy the benefits of our excellent water quality shellfish program DOH staff to certify and protect our growing waters. We are not anti government people.
But the pendulum has swung so far to the regulatory side that we have come to the conclusion that until the desire of government to control every aspect of our business and lives is controlled, more revenue would just make things worse. Why is it that government cannot fund the basic state services, but somehow has the resources to come and harass us, with no evidence that we are doing anything wrong?
Our suggestions for improvement are as follows.
A: The burden of proof should be on the government agency to prove either a clear and real problem or hazard posed by our specific actions before any regulatory imposition could be imposed. If a given regulatory body cannot articulate a specific problem, they have no business imposing a solution.
B: if a problem is in fact identified, we should have full discretion to pursue a given outcome in our own way, rather than being forced to engage in the process dictated by a given agency.
C: All regulations should sunset and need re-authorization so as to see the light of day from time to time.
D: An efficient, accessible means should exist of appealing any regulation, regulatory action or process. Currently, we find we have little or no recourse to anyone when faced with a ridiculous, nonsensical demand.
E: All regulations should be voted upon by a representative body, not hatched out in the recesses of some agency. We need to have the opportunity to be heard on matters impacting our livelihood. This is not adequately afforded by the rules making process.
F: Regulations need to have clear goals.
G: Single issues should be regulated by single government entities. We should not have to wade through multiple, repetitive processes.
H: The CAO should be repealed, clarified and re-enabled as legislation that fits all the above criteria.
I: The state water pollution control act should be amended to reflect the above criteria.
J: Employers and entrepreneurs should be thanked and rewarded for our role in driving the economy. Whatever regulatory issues remain after the above criteria are applied should be addressed in a spirit of co-operation and collaboration. (Actually, this was our experience in the early days of our business, 6-10 years ago.)
Thank you for your consideration of our issues. We look forward to working with you more as time goes on. Feel free to share this letter if you like.
Nick & Sara Jones
1934 Mud Bay Road
Lopez, WA 98261
— On Tue, 1/10/12, Pryce, Barrett
From: Pryce, Barrett
Subject: Our conversation this evening…
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 6:07 PM
It was really great to hear your perspective tonight.
I’d love it if you would respond with your earlier comments (and contact information) so I can share them with Senator Hewitt
Regarding Ecology, I mentioned a piece that really struck me earlier this year — here it is:
Here’s what we’ve been saying on these matters for months (years), along with some of the reforms to designed to vitalize the business climate that the Senate Republican Caucus has been working towards:
I’ve been calling strictly for ‘reform before revenue’. It’s wrong to talk about taxes first, before working to better reestablish a government the citizens are willing to pay for with existing revenue. Besides, this is a state economy that continues to experience sustained, record unemployment. I want you to know that there are significant reform options still available to the legislature, and that the opportunity to further reform state government in the interest of taxpayer stewardship, is one I will be working to capitalize on.
Per your earlier correspondence, here’s what my caucus is looking at for business climate regulatory reforms in the immediate future, starting in January:
Streamline State Environmental Policy Act: Avoid duplication by other environmental laws such as increasing the number of categorical exemptions (i.e. projects that do not have to go through the SEPA process) for low levels of construction activity that typically result in no environmental impact statement needing to be completed.
Reduce the up-front cost of construction projects by collecting impact fees at the end of the construction process.
Make industrial stormwater requirements for employers compatible with the standards municipalities comply with.
Promote water policies that encourage conservation and access to water for domestic use.
Delay energy code updates.
Temporarily suspend Initiative 937 during periods of high unemployment (SB 5563)
Create greater accountability for agencies by requiring the governor to sign all significant rules. This gives the governor an opportunity to ask whether there is legislative authority for a rule. (2001 Washington Competitiveness Council recommendation.)
Require agencies to provide information regarding the impact of proposed legislation on employers and jobs as part of the fiscal-note process.
Streamline environmental permitting – Establish the Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee with specific priorities for coordinating and fast tracking permitting.
Further delay the implementation of shoreline management rules.
Address issues making the prevailing-wage program difficult for contractors to work with and provide for an appropriate calculation of the prevailing-wage rates.
We’re going to try and get as many of those as we can.
Regarding Ecology’s budget, there is definitely some room for belt tightening, and our Floor Leader, Senator Schoesler, has a great sense of where to make reductions. Largely, though the savings to be found there is in the reform of regulations imposed upon municipalities and businesses. Much of the agency’s direct funding is from the feds, or matched dollars that meet or exceed the state’s contribution. That’s my understanding anyway.
Despite the downward revisions, the state is still expecting to take in more money in 11-13 than in 09-11.
Specifically, revenue collections are expected to grow by 7.1% (from $28.5 billion to $30.5 billion).
If I can ever be of assistance, let me know.
Assistant to Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt
16th Legislative District
If you would like to receive The Eastsider’s Report, Senator Hewitt’s weekly legislative update, then please respond to this message and we will gladly add you to the growing list of recipients.
AP FACT CHECK: Has Wash. cut budget by $10.5B? Hardly
MIKE BAKER – Associated Press (AP)
Posted November 27, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — In laying out the case for a possible tax increase, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire stood by a pie chart and talked about how the state had already cut $10.5 billion since 2008.
That number is only true if you stretch the interpretation of what a budget cut is.
Even if her new round of $1.7 billion of budget reductions go through, Washington is still scheduled to spend about $30 billion in its current general fund budget, more than the last budget cycle and only $1.5 billion less than the peak in the 2007-09 budget. Her much bigger calculation comes because of how budget writers view projected growth in government — especially at a time when more people are relying on its services as a safety net.
Many of the hundreds of cuts Gregoire and other Democrats have tallied are simply automatic spending increases that didn’t end up happening. For example, because the state twice suspended automatic cost-of-living adjustments for education employees, budgeters counted it as a “cut” of $682 million. Another “cut” of $344 million is counted because it stopped regular cost-of-living increases for some pensioners.
The $10.5 billion number also includes more than $1 billion dollars that were cut from higher education, but much of that money is still coming in a different way because lawmakers hiked tuition rates to offset the reductions. This year, the state halted new entrants to the Basic Health Plan for low-income residents and counted that as a saving of $130 million.
Some of the other numbers are even more curious. Budget leaders counted a $128 million cut for delaying an education apportionment payment, but the payment was still eventually made. They counted a $69 million cut from state parks, but didn’t take into account that the state filled that void by creating a new fee for park users. They booked another $440 million for an actuarial change in pensions.
While the claim for $10.5 billion cuts may be a stretch, Gregoire did accurately portray a long-term slide in state revenue when accounting for personal income and population. In 1995, the first year comparable information is available, the state brought in almost 7 cents for every dollar of personal income in Washington. That has dropped to less than 5 cents, according to state data.
And the state has made a variety of substantial cuts, closing three prisons, reducing the state workforce by about 7 percent and cutting key social services. Gregoire proposes to cut even deeper, reducing the length of the school year, eliminating some social programs and releasing prisoners early.
Gregoire’s tax proposal would ask voters for a half-penny increase in the state sales tax, bringing in nearly $500 million per year to counterbalance some of the cuts — particularly in education.
Republicans say there is more work to be done on reforming state government.
AP Writer Mike Baker can be reached at http://twitter.com/MikeBakerAP