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‘Seattle doesn’t speak for entire state’: Lawmaker proposes employee tax credit in distressed counties

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SHELTON, Wash. --  Shelton in Mason County is less than 2 hours from Seattle. “It almost does feel like a different state,” Tom Beben said.

Because the bedroom community covets the economic prosperity that never came.

“It never really boomed, it’s pretty much stayed stagnant for the last 10 years,” Beben said.

Beben is owner of Smoking Mo’s, and he and his wife has managed through that stagnation to make a name for their business in the community. But, he said, he would always love more customers.

“We are in desperate need of more businesses and bigger businesses,” Beben said.

The question is could the head tax fallout in Seattle become an advantage for places like Shelton.

“If businesses are rethinking their commitment to Seattle, they ought to be very open and interested in a county that will offer them the opposite,” Republican state Sen. Steve O’Ban said.

O'Ban represents the 28th Legislative District, which includes contains a bit of Tacoma, and the cities of Fircrest, University Place, Lakewood, Steilacoom, and DuPont. It also contains Ketron Island, Anderson Island and McNeil Island.

While Seattle is taking away $275 per worker from large companies, O’ Ban wants to give away that same amount to any company that makes a new hire for the next 5 years.

“They will be tickled to have businesses that Seattle is turning their noses up,” O’ Ban said.

It’s the same tactic Pierce County announced just a day ago but O’Ban’s focus is on depressed counties instead, with 6% or more unemployment rate.

Sixteen counties would be affected, including Mason, Clallam, Jefferson, Lewis, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.

“I am focusing on the parts of the Washington left out of the big economic boom,” O’Ban said.

O’Ban says his legislative move is more than just about jobs.

“We have to send a message that Seattle doesn’t speak for the entire state -- not sure if Seattle City Council speaks for the people of Seattle,” O’Ban said.

But will tech companies that thrive in urban settings really take the bait? O’ Ban says big tech may not but others could.

“Like manufacturing, for example -- great place to relocate to rural areas,” O’Ban said.

“I would like to see it happen but then again where does the money come from?" Beben asked.

O’Ban says this past year the state brought in $2.3 billion more in revenue. He says the state can afford to make the investments now because bringing more jobs to the rural areas would then generate more dollars.

If O'Ban's proposed legislation passes, it would kick in starting July 2019.

Another lawmaker, Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet, says he plans to come up with legislation to repeal Seattle's head tax altogether next year.

O’Ban says he would sign on to the fight to reverse the damage that he contends the Seattle City Council has done to the entire state.




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