OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers Friday vowed to move ahead with a package of tax incentives for Boeing even though the Machinists union has expressed anger over the company’s contract offer.
“I don’t think that we should be surprised that there is strong passion and great deliberations about changes that have been proposed,” Inslee said at a news conference on Friday. “But … we’re going to move forward with our policies to win this plane for the state of Washington.”
Boeing has said it will build the 777X in Washington if members of the Machinists union vote next week to accept a new eight-year contract with big cuts in future pension and health-care benefits.
It also wants the Legislature to extend existing commercial-airplane tax incentives — due to expire in 2024 — until 2040; expand a sales-and-use tax exemption for construction of buildings used to manufacture airplanes; and boost enrollment in aerospace fields at colleges, among other actions.
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In addition, the company has said it wants lawmakers to approve a multibillion-dollar transportation tax package.
Inslee called the special session, which started Thursday, to fulfill the state’s side of the bargain.
House and Senate committees took up the aerospace legislation Friday, and the full Legislature is expected to pass the measures Saturday — blinding speed for a political body more accustomed to arguing at length.
It appears, however, the proposed $10 billion transportation tax package will take more time. Legislative leaders won’t hazard a guess as to how long. There were discussions Friday about whether lawmakers should adjourn after passing everything but the transportation package.
Some lawmakers seemed shaken by news the Machinists might reject the offer, but plowed ahead with their work.
A Seattle Times story noted that District 751 President Tom Wroblewski tore up a copy of Boeing’s contract proposal Thursday night and said he would try to have it withdrawn. “I know this is a piece of crap,” Wroblewski said.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner sent a message to the company’s machinists Friday, urging them to approve the proposed contract. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday.
“Like many of you, I’m the product of a Boeing family, and I care deeply about the company and its people. Let’s move forward together,” Conner said in a statement that emphasized the competitive pressures facing the company.
House Finance Chairman Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, echoed the governor on the need for lawmakers to move ahead, as did Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.
“We need to do our part from the state level, and then the workers are going to have to figure out if that is a good deal for them. That’s their decision,” Tom said.
Larry Brown, a lobbyist for the Machinists union, testified Friday in support of the tax incentives that would benefit Boeing and other aerospace companies.
“This is a separate issue completely” from the contract, he said. “We’re fully supportive of this package. We helped develop it.”
Inslee, at the news conference, was asked if he’d make a personal appeal to the Machinists union.
“I’m not a machinist,” he said. “The machinists’ families will make decisions that are good for their individual circumstances. But I can say unequivocally that an agreement between Boeing and the Machinists is a good thing for the state of Washington.”
The governor added later that “I do think there is a need to really have a calm, dispassionate view of the specifics of the proposal by everybody on the table. I think over the weekend, as more information is disseminated and people have a chance to look at it in the cool light of day, then people will make their decision.”
Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @awgarber