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Think tank touts free market solutions at Spokane Valley event

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(The Center Square) – The Legislature’s loss is a win for the Washington Policy Center, as Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, steps into a new leadership role as Eastern Washington Director for WPC. His experience on small business and tax issues is a good fit for the independent think tank promoting free-market approaches to public policy issues.

“Our goal is to support community leaders around Washington in appreciating the free market,” Corry said after a WPC’s State of the Free Market reception held in Spokane Valley on Thursday. “We want to empower citizens to advocate for free market solutions in Washington.”

Corry is one of the Republican legislators impacted by the judicial redistricting map mandated under the Palmer v. Hobbs case, which is still on appeal, meaning he is now running for re-election in the 15th Legislative District. He was first elected to the House’s 14th Legislative District in 2018.

WPC operates eight research centers to support its mission. A panel featured directors from three of those centers: Liv Finne of the Center for Education, Todd Myers of the Center for the Environment and Mark Harmsworth of the Center for Small Business.

Finne started the panel by saying “there is no free market in education” in Washington. While state spending on public schools has increased from $9,785 per pupil in 2010 to $19,100 in 2024, test results have remained stagnant through 2019 and showed a drop after 2020.

Finne’s research focus has been on the impact of educational savings accounts, charter schools and voucher programs. She named 10 states that have passed universal school choice laws since 2020, adding, “Louisiana just passed a school choice bill today.”

Myers, author of “Time to Think Small: How Nimble Environmental Technologies Can Solve the Planet’s Biggest Problems,” emphasized free market solutions to a range of issues including salmon recovery and carbon dioxide emission reduction.

“Our environmental focus has been so government-centered we are missing out on more effective solutions,” he said. “We care about the free market because it’s more effective and more moral than the alternatives.”

Myers was recently named vice president for research, replacing the retiring Paul Guppy.

As a small business owner, Harmsworth described how regulations that raise the cost to his business are what raise costs to consumers across a variety of enterprises, noting, “31% of the cost of building a house in the Puget Sound area is permitting costs.”

Several WPC supporters added their own stories. Affordable housing is directly affected by regulatory burdens, according to Isaiah Paine of the Spokane Homebuilders Association.

“One SHBA member told me it costs him $80,000 more to build the exact same home in Washington than it costs him to build across the border in Rathdrum.”

Several business leaders gave examples of the impact of state policies on their decisions.

Kent Clausen operates hotels in five states. He warned the growing mindset of entitlement has warped the perceptions of the role of government.

“The connection between risk and reward has been disrupted,” he said. “Why risk if there’s no reward? I will not build another hotel in the state of Washington.”

Devin Meacham, commercial sales manager with NAI Black, said he’s seen apartment builders no longer willing to build in Washington as regulations making it more expensive to own a building increase.

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