Big business pirates make off with hundreds of millions, but nobody seems to notice.

Note: This guest article was written by the Association of Mythical Pirates; however, the sentiment is fully endorsed by Undead Olympia

Pirate parrot

Would this be enough to keep you quiet about a few hundred million bucks?

Pirate ships are places where the mere rumor of a legend of a story someone heard about a buried treasure would get parrots squawking, peglegs pounding, and mutinous thoughts a-brewing in a massive collective fury to plunder. So we pirates are deeply impressed — if a little befuddled — by the ability of the entire Legislature to keep silent about the $350 million in booty being pillaged by Washington employers from cost-savings in unemployment insurance premiums and L&I premiums. (Thankfully, these savings did not come from laying fewer workers off or god forbid from injuring fewer of them; it came from “reforming” the programs so workers get less and employers keep more.)

Incredibly, they have remained silent on this matter as even though it’s been less than a year since these same legislators spent so much time talking about L&I and unemployment costs that even our parrots learned the catchphrases. (“Polly wants a structured settlement!”) In fact, legend holds that the roadkill caucus threatened to bring the entire Legislature to a halt if worker benefits were not plundered for the profit margins. Employers ran off with the booty in reduced costs to provide benefits to injured-but-not-quite-dead workers, and some say their cackling laughter can still be heard on quiet nights in the Cherberg Building. (You have to tune out the moaning though.)

These may be the savings that dare not be spoken of, but we still believe in the legend of the employer windfall. We’ve heard tale that back on December 1st, the Governor took time off from a prolonged tour of the state’s blood banks to announce substantial cost savings for employers: $207 million savings in unemployment taxes and $150 million in L&I premiums compared to the costs employers had expected up until that moment.

With that announcement, employers stashed the newfound booty in treasure chests, redacted all past remarks about the relevance of unemployment and L&I premiums to their overall tax burden, and swore each other to secrecy: never again will this bonanza of riches be spoken of. After all, $350 million in unexpected windfalls could earn a big fat x on some advocate’s Olympia treasure map. Not to mention that when you plunder a few hundred million in surprise savings, it’s harder to complain about cost burdens.

Shiver me timbers, but somehow, the business community seems to have extended its vow of silence to the Legislature itself. It’s as if some kind of pirate curse has been placed on any who reveal the truth of the employer windfall, condemning any such souls to a fate crueler than death. (For example, a political career whose highest expectation is to run for Lieutenant Governor.)

So Olympia keeps its anchors down and resolutely refuses to sail after the treasure before us  — despite the fact that a well-crafted $350 million employer tax increase could be cost-neutral to these very employers compared to what they were expecting to carry in costs just a few months ago.

Well blow me down! It seems that in the Legislature, the threat of a cost increase to employers demands immediate , but the reality of an employer windfall demands silence.

Budget cuts ahoy!