New CCPA study finds BC has the advantage over Washington State

June 8, 2001

(Vancouver) A new report released today by the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds that BC has the advantage over Washington State. The report, "In Search of the Good Life: 'Competitiveness' in British Columbia and Washington State," looks at both traditional business measures of competitiveness as well important cost-of-living and quality of life measures.

"British Columbians keep hearing that we have to follow Washington State's example of lower taxes and smaller government if we want to compete for investment and highly-skilled workers, especially in the high tech industry," says Donna Vogel, author of the study and a researcher with the Centre's BC office.

The study finds that BC is on par with WA when it comes to most traditional business measures such as taxes and business costs. It is in the areas of tax fairness, cost of living and quality of life that BC ranks well ahead of WA. "Traditional business measures of 'competitiveness' tell us very little about quality of life for most people," says Vogel.

BC's tax system is much more fair than WA's, which is the most regressive tax system in the US. "Low income families in WA pay almost three times more of their income in state taxes than high income families. And although an average BC family pays $1,633 more per year in provincial taxes than a WA family pays in state taxes, BC spends $1,118 more per person on public programs. The tax savings in WA are more than wiped out by higher private spending by families for important goods and services like health care and university tuition.

"Higher private spending in WA has contributed to greater inequality," says Vogel. "The gap between rich and poor has been growing in both BC and WA, but the gap is wider and is growing faster in WA. Almost 16% of WA's population has no health insurance, and the number is growing daily."

Many of the employment standards that British Columbians take for granted are virtually non-existent in WA. Workers in WA are not entitled to statutory holidays or annual vacations and provisions for maternity leave are vastly inferior. Only women working in the public sector or for companies with more than 50 employees (just 55% of the workforce) are entitled to a mere 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

"The irony of the situation is that social and economic conditions have worsened over the past decade in WA--the longest period of economic growth in US history," says Vogel. "After seven years of tax cuts and economic growth, WA is facing a major fiscal crisis. If competitiveness means higher out-of-pocket costs, more inequality and lower employment standards, it is time to ask the question: 'What are we competing for?'"