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Morning Wire: JT Wilcox, Rick Larsen, AWB on climate change

Good morning. We’re able to feature a number of more economic items for you this week. While we sometimes focus on the “horse race” of politics, it’s the underlying economics of Washington State that drive these policy discussions. It’s part of why we focus our coverage on the political economy of our state, as well as the politics and personalities of our state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our Daily Wire service, that gives you a run down of all of our daily stories posted at the Wire.  We posted fifteen stories last week that are informing Washington State’s political and opinion class.  You can sign up here.

With help from Emily Boerger and Kylie Walsh

1. Rep. Rick Larsen on investing in Arctic

Rep. Rick Larsen was one of the keynote speakers at the 5th Annual Arctic Encounter Symposium last week, where he called for increased investments in the US Arctic. We have the highlights from his speech.

Notably, Larsen ties Washington’s economy to Alaska, which historically have been connected through tourism, shipping, and natural resources. “But [Alaska’s] certainly part of the everyday economy here in the Pacific Northwest. As an example, local shipyards are often the winter home for maintenance and repair on the fishing vessels and other vessels that operate in Alaskan waters during the warmer months, as well as playing a key part in recapitalizing the Alaskan fishing fleet.”

2. The economic connection between Washington State, Alaska, and the Arctic

Last week, Emily Boerger and Kylie Walsh attended the Alaska Encounter Symposium, billed as “the largest annual Arctic policy event in the United States.” Some of their reporting was featured above at 1 and below at 5. It was an impressive event and line up of about 140 speakers in a two day event. Those included Rep. Rick Larsen, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

It also highlighted the unique economic connection Washington State and Alaska have together.  One hundred and twenty years ago, it was about the gold rush, an economic phenomenon that fueled Seattle’s turn-of-the-century growth.  The Seattle Chamber has continued its Alaska Committee programming for over 50 years, featuring a range of economic connections.  More recently, climate changeoil drilling, and logistics have connected the two economies.

The symposium was a useful reminder that the Washington State economy is not a silo unto itself, nor is it entirely about international trade. Sometimes our best economic partners are our neighboring states.

3.  Opportunity Zones created in state

Gov. Inslee recently designated 139 census tracts in 36 counties as “Opportunity Zones,” qualifying them for special federal tax breaks under The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The purpose of the opportunity zone designation is to incentivize economic development and job creation in low-income communities by providing tax benefits for investors.

In order to be considered for opportunity zone status, a census tract needs to have an individual poverty rate of at least 20 percent or a median family income of up to 80 percent of the area median. A total of 555 census tracts were eligible for consideration in Washington. Under the 2017 tax act, Inslee was allowed to select 139. The full list of selected census tracts can be found here.

4. Does a special session loom?

Following a story first reported in the Wire, Friday, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the legislature violated the state constitution when it passed HB 3003 as a roundabout way to amend I-940. The judge ruled that I-940 would need to appear on the ballot, without the changes proposed in HB 3003.

Senator Padden, who joined the Eyman v. Wyman lawsuit in March, called the ruling a “victory for the constitution and the rule of law.” He said the next step is to determine if there is a way to get the legislature’s alternative on the ballot. If it’s possible, Padden says a special session will be required.

5.  AWB on carbon initiative

MC McAleer is AWB’s director of government affairs on climate and energy policy. She recently spoke at the Arctic Encounter Symposium where she discussed some of AWB’s concerns with Washington’s latest carbon pricing initiative (I-1631). Specifically, McAleer discussed the complexity of the initiative’s funding allocations. She used this chart to illustrate the funding streams and intricacy of I-1631.

“The complex nature of this proposal will make it administratively inefficient to administer those funds. It’s kind of remarkable…I don’t think we have another government program in Washington State that has this level of architecture,” said McAleer.

6. Washington’s economy ranks first

In a nationwide report from WalletHub, Washington’s economy ranks first out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report evaluated 27 metrics to rank each state’s economic activity, economic health, and innovation potential.

Washington ranks first in terms of economic activity, which includes measurements of GDP growth and exports per capita. When looking at the state’s economic health through measurements such as unemployment rates and median household income, Washington ranks 4th. Washington sits in third place when it comes to innovation potential which is measured by the number of STEM and high-tech jobs as well as the amount of R&D investment. Other top states include California, Utah, and Massachusetts. States with the lowest ranked economies include Mississippi, Louisiana, and West Virginia.

7. On the passing of Rep. Al Swift

US Rep. Al Swift passed away on Friday at the spry age of 82.  We have this touching reflection from Charla Neuman, a public affairs consultant and former Congressional staff person.

Joel Connelly has the story of Swift’s “long shot” candidacy for the US House, and what he made of it while in office.  Sen. Reuven Carlyle posted a photo of himself as a young man (intern?) with Swift on Twitter: “From one guy who knows how to toss his coat off and get to work to another.”

8. Amazon’s median comp next to other companies

In case you missed it, Bloomberg reported the median compensation of a range of companies, a data point now required to be disclosed in America for the first time.  This reporting is a result of the Dodd-Frank law passed during the Great Recession.

The WSJ also reported on this over the weekend, offering additional comparisons and more company data. From that coverage: “One researcher likened Amazon to the child produced by a three-way merger between Google, United Parcel Service Inc. and Walmart Inc.”

9. Are Republicans gaining traction in swing districts?

Rep. JT Wilcox sends us this dispatch from the campaign trail, including this interesting nugget:  “We are the caucus that features the widest range of opinions in the legislature and makes room for every member to effectively represent their district rather than an exclusive ideology.”

Historically, Washington State includes a significant portion of the electorate that is independent-minded, and skeptical of any ideological purity, regardless of whether it is left or right.  Will that openness to diverse views get traction in swing districts when animosity to President Trump is likely to carry significant weight?

One data point to watch will be today’s special election in Arizona.  It’s a reliably Republican Congressional district, but that support is likely to be eroded given the current political context.