YAKIMA, Wash. — Agriculture must be careful to not become the new bad guy that a more left-leaning Legislature targets for higher taxes, Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, told growers at the association’s annual meeting on Dec. 3.
DeVaney noted that in the November election, Democrats increased their state House seats from 50 to 57 and their Senate seats from 25 to 28, giving them greater breathing room over Republicans.
“And that doesn’t tell the whole story because like in the 8th Congressional District the shift was ideological to the far left. Voters wanted a hard left shift but still were anti-new taxes,” DeVaney said, noting a carbon tax was soundly defeated.
State revenues are projected up 9 percent to $50 billion for the next biennium but it’s still short of what Democrats want to spend so they will be looking for isolated tax increases instead of broad ones, he said.
“Seattle backed away from its head tax but that approach of finding someone who is a bad actor is the approach many of our legislators will be taking,” DeVaney said. “We have to be careful we don’t get that villain tag put on us as an industry.
“Agriculture has a good reputation, but we are just one scandal away from being the bad guy. That’s why food safety and tractor safety training are so important. Through education and training the more we can do to reduce bad news stories the better.”
Lobbying against legislative bills works when margins between the political parties are narrow but it doesn’t work as well when the margins are wide, he said.
The industry has to educate legislators on the good things it is doing and seek to persuade on practical solutions rather than ideology, he said.