A Washington State Department of Ecology analysis of the economic impact of forcing 150 wineries in the state to pay new wastewater permit fees lays bare a dangerous and frustrating bureaucratic mindset.

A department economist concluded that the higher fees will benefit the economy by creating public-sector jobs. Huzzah!

In an analysis of the higher wastewater permit fees, Ecology’s economist figured they will create 17 public-sector jobs the first year and more later.

“This is how a broad-based set of compliance costs (primarily fees) results in a benefit to the state economy,” according to the analysis.

The growth in public-sector jobs will beget more public-sector jobs, according to the analysis.

“As a result of this modeled growth in the state economy, the public sector also grows and employs more people,” the analysis states.

It’s unclear how much the fees for the permits now required of the wineries will raise. But, we assume that it is not a small number because 17 new bureaucrats don’t come cheap when you throw in healthcare and retirement benefits.

The analysis assumes that there will be no negative impacts on the wineries and that they will continue to grow and generate more fees. It is silent as to what economic activity would be if the fees were not applied.

Ecology projects that because of the higher permit fees (on all industries, not just wineries) there will be 71 more public-sector jobs by 2038. But the net gain to the total economy will be only 49 jobs. So this means there will be a LOSS of 22 private-sector jobs.

Most interesting in all of this is that there is no evidence that the wineries now required to get a permit have ever polluted groundwater. The department can cite no such event, but maintains the need for permitting and enforcement on the come — it could happen.

To summarize: Ecology hasn’t documented that any winery has polluted groundwater. It does not consider whether money in private hands creates more jobs than money in the hands of government. Its job projections are based on a model that assumes government spending will create more government jobs at all levels of government. The analysis glosses over the loss of private-sector jobs in the long run. The analysis doesn’t consider whether the winery fees will slow down the industry’s growth.

It appears the real purpose of increasing fees is to supplement the bureaucracy, the wellspring of economic activity.

Public sector employment begets additional public sector employment — a prophetic statement as certain as death and taxes.

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