Monday, December 13, 2010

Tom McCabe leaving BIAW at end of the year

       After 21 years, Tom McCabe will be leaving his post as Executive Director of the politically powerful Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) at the end of the year. His resignation came as a surprise to many, but not to most BIAW insiders.

       Under his leadership, BIAW became a major player in statewide politics, and synonymous with pro-business, conservative causes, as well as being perhaps the state’s staunchest supporter of the Republican Party. It also became a lightening rod for continual condescending, elitist criticism by liberals — something the group accepts as a compliment for its efforts on behalf of small business. 

However, it would be impossible not to acknowledge McCabe’s contribution in transforming the group from an ineffectual trade association into the state’s most aggressive advocate for small business and free enterprise, attracting national recognition from such prestigious publications as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Forbes Magazine.

During McCabe’s tenure, BIAW membership grew from roughly 2,000 member businesses in 1990 — the same year the Growth Management Act was passed —  to more than 11,000 currently. In fact, BIAW is one of, if not the largest, affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in the nation.

McCabe built a highly effective lobbying team that in spite of liberal Democratic majorities in the both houses of the legislature managed to prevent the passage of legislation that unfairly targeted the construction industry — most notably onerously mandated homeowner warranty legislation, as well as that requiring costly fire sprinklers in new, single family homes, elimination of exempt wells, and an expansion of impact fees, among other victories.

 McCabe also founded BIAW’s retrospective rating program, turning it into the largest in the state. The program provides worker’s compensation insurance to BIAW members, and over the past 20 years has returned $360 million from state government back to its membership. The program retains a small portion of each refund as an administration fee, and the millions that fee generates has been the funding source for BIAW’s political activities that support conservative, pro-business candidates and causes.

BIAW also used our state’s initiative process skillfully, and was able to reject restrictive, ergonomics regulations unilaterally imposed by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), as well as getting Initiative 602 on the ballot, which would have restricted the growth of state government. It most recently sponsored I-1082, which would have opened Workman’s Compensation insurance to the private sector.

“We didn’t win every battle — nobody does. In my 20 years at BIAW, we never had a Republican governor and most of the time the legislature was controlled by liberal Democrats,” said McCabe. “So in every battle, we were the perpetual underdogs and I am so proud of the courage and determination of my staff and the small businesses that fought along side us.”

Over the years, liberal political opponents have tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation to eliminate the retro program and de-fund BIAW’s political machine, as well as filed numerous bogus lawsuits, but have been defeated at every turn. 
However, a very nasty, internal battle between BIAW and it’s largest and most powerful affiliate member, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBA), may have been McCabe’s undoing. The clash, which has gone on for more than three years, has caused an ever-widening fissure within the organization, pitting individual members and member associations against each other — much to glee of its political opponents.

The MBA began offering its own version of the retro program to both its own members as well as other BIAW affiliates earlier this year, and in what has been described as an orchestrated coup, elected one of their own as president of the association at the last general meeting.

McCabe is leaving BIAW with a severance package reportedly valued at $1.25 million, with his senior staff also being offered a generous severance package.
Who will replace McCabe is still up in the air, but it’s possible an interim director will be appointed while a search for a successor is conducted. McCabe will leave BIAW at the end of this year, but will provide future assistance to BIAW.

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