No swift Plan B was forthcoming from Washington state political leaders on Thursday, a day after the Boeing Machinists union-contract-rejection vote cast the state’s aerospace future into jeopardy.
Gov. Jay Inslee and top lawmakers vowed to compete with other bidders for Boeing’s 777X line, but offered few specifics on how they might sweeten the nearly $9 billion pot of tax incentives the Legislature approved last week.
“There are other things we can and will do, but the package we put together is substantive, long-range and with great protections for taxpayers,” said David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee. “I don’t think other states will be able to match that.”
The prospect of losing future Boeing production was a major political blow for Inslee, who campaigned last year on a platform stressing job growth.
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Inslee left for China Thursday morning to join a trade mission with a delegation of state business, agriculture and education representatives. Originally scheduled to depart last week, Inslee had postponed the trip to wrap up the Boeing tax breaks.
Postman said Inslee will remain in contact with business, labor and political leaders throughout his China mission to keep apprised of Boeing developments. He is scheduled to return Monday.
On a flight layover in Vancouver, B.C., Inslee spoke with Democratic U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell about possible new actions, according to Postman.
As a first step, Inslee will reconvene a bipartisan 777X legislative task force that had been considering ways to make Washington more competitive for Boeing work.
Inslee also plans to participate in a conference call with the board of the Washington Aerospace Partnership on Friday.
Meanwhile, lawmakers continue discussions about a major state transportation-funding package supported by Boeing. Inslee could call lawmakers into a special session to take up that proposal by late next week.
Murray, a key player in the Boeing and Machinists talks, issued a statement saying she’ll personally work “to ensure that lines of communications remain open between all sides.”
Boeing has said it won’t negotiate with the Machinists after Wednesday night’s overwhelming no vote on an eight-year contract extension that demanded major union concessions in exchange for a guarantee the 777X would be built in Washington.
The company has dispatched representatives to other states to begin hearing offers.
But Murray warned in her statement, “Washington deserves a fair shot at this contract and I have made clear that I expect Boeing to provide it.”
State Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom sounded grim at the state’s chances after the Machinist’s vote.
“This was the grand prize in manufacturing for maybe for a decade and we didn’t come through,” said Tom, D-Medina, who joined with Republicans and one other Democrat to form a Republican-dominated majority caucus in the state Senate this year.
“That doesn’t mean we are out of it but I would have to imagine that (Texas Gov.) Rick Perry and (California Gov.) Jerry Brown and others are now making a very compelling case,” he said.
Tom said lawmakers should continue work on a transportation package and take steps to help other businesses in Washington with tax and regulatory issues the way it has for Boeing.
State Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, who sits on the Legislature’s 777X task force, said “I don’t think there is much more in changes we can put out there” to lure Boeing’s future jet-assembly work. But he said lawmakers will take a look.
But some ideas, such as changes to Washington’s generally union-friendly stance, remain nonstarters in Olympia.
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, called on the Legislature to immediately go into special session and adopt a “right-to-work” law.
Such laws, which are in effect in some states competing for Boeing work, such as South Carolina, restrict union organizing and prohibit mandatory dues.
“If we’re going to attract and grow quality aerospace jobs, piecemeal measures won’t cut it,” Baumgartner said in a news release.
Democrats laughed off that idea.
Asked whether Inslee would even consider such a measure, Postman replied “No. No. No. No.”
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.