Closing Argument in Case for Rob McKenna

by Steve Isenhart President AGC of Washington

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are Im from the government and Im here to help.

-Ronald Reagan

I hope it hasnt escaped your attention that AGC of Washingtons Board of Trustees width=200endorsed Rob McKenna for Governor. We believe Rob is the best candidate to address several broad issues including jobs education and transportation.

But in addition to these higher-profile public policy issues Rob has made government reform one of his major platforms. Thats important for the construction industry because over the years we have experienced state agencies that have strayed from a common-sense approach with an accumulation of small specific rules and policies -- things under the radar screen that nevertheless hinder the day-to-day working of our companies.

Here are just a couple of recent examples:

  • L&I -- unilaterally out-of-the-blue -- changed how it calculates fringe benefit contributions on prevailing wage jobs potentially precipitating retroactive payments for many contractors. AGC is fighting this (see article here) as it amounts to a change of the rules in the middle of the game a change attempted outside of the normal open rule-making process.
  • In a lawsuit-induced settlement a construction firm paid millions of dollars in back wages -- because it relied on information from L&I that turned out to be incorrect! (See article here.) L&I wasnt held responsible for the wrong information it provided; the contractor was left holding the bag.

As contractors we understand that our industry is highly regulated. In many important ways AGC and the industry as a whole has had a positive working relationship over the years with our primary regulator. For example AGCs Safety Team and Group Retro are two state-of-the-art programs developed through collaboration with smart personnel at L&I with whom we share the values of fairness safety and efficiency.

But as contractors we also recognize when a harmful imbalance in the regulator-regulated relationship occurs when too often regulatory decisions no longer seemed to be based on the shared values of fairness safety and efficiency but are based on something else...politics? ideology?

Im not sure but I do believe that an evolution has taken place in this state turning Im from the government and Im here to help into a punch line rather than a statement of how things should be. I also believe hubris from three decades of one-party rule within the Governors mansion and L&I has been a significant contributing factor.

The construction industry is struggling to climb out of the economic hole weve been in for four years. To help us get out of it we need to readjust the regulatory pendulum -- not to swing it from one extreme to the other but from the current extreme back to the middle to a balance based on fairness safety and efficiency.

Its time for a new approach to governing. Its time to elect Rob McKenna for Governor.

photo: Steve Isenhart Tiger Construction President of AGC of Washington