NOVEMBER 7, 2013
Advocates for jobs,
take action or make more excuses
OLYMPIA -- The
timing and schedule may have surprised some, but every state legislator knew
it was coming.
Jay Inslee made the surprise announcement on Tuesday that a special
legislative session would convene -- starting today -- to consider a package
of incentives for The Boeing Co. to locate 777X work in Washington state. For
weeks, a bipartisan 777X Legislative Task Force of state lawmakers, the
governor's office, and business and labor leaders has been meeting to
develop the package.
But for much, much
longer than that, legislators from both parties have been debating how to
maintain a thriving aerospace industry in Washington state. They knew that we
were in a competition with other states that desperately want jobs and
investment from Boeing and its suppliers. They knew that, for all the
business-climate rhetoric and political gamesmanship, the time for speeches
and dithering would eventually end. They knew the day would come that they
would have to make some tough choices -- and act.
It's that time.
Times is reporting
that some state legislators are already trying to parse the language of a
Letter of Understanding between Boeing and the Machinists Union to argue that
it doesn't matter what the Legislature does, the 777X work depends solely on
the union's contract vote. Not so, says the governor, the Machinists
Union (see IAM's
open letter to legislators) and legislative leaders of both parties who
have had direct talks with Boeing officials. They say the incentive package is
needed to secure the 777X work. As always, Boeing will not comment to
In this context,
anyone who uses the union vote as an excuse NOT to act on the incentive
package is simply rolling the dice that legislative complacency doesn’t
matter to Boeing. There should be no question that it does matter.
by key lawmakers, business and labor leaders, and yes, Boeing officials at
Tuesday's press conference, Gov. Inslee said the package up for
A bipartisan transportation revenue package.
Extension of all commercial airplane tax incentives until 2040, and expansion
of the current sales and use tax exemption on construction of buildings to
manufacture “superefficient airplanes” to include all commercial airplanes
and suppliers of wings and fuselages.
Education and workforce development investments to boost enrollments in
aerospace fields at community and technical colleges, train workers for
manufacturing of composite wings and complete the Central Sound Aerospace
Training Facility in Renton.
Streamlined permitting actions that will speed up development and expansion of
facilities at large manufacturing sites around the state.
Developing balanced, practical solutions that achieve water quality goals
(also referred to as fish consumption).
TRANSPORTATION IS SO IMPORTANT
The first two items
-- transportation and tax incentives -- are clearly the centerpiece of the
package. It’s easy to understand why Boeing would want to retain the tax
incentives created in 2003 to secure 787 work in Washington. Those incentives
are set to expire in 2024 unless the Legislature acts to extend them. The
governor proposes to do so for 16 years.
What might be
harder to understand is why Boeing would care so much about a statewide
transportation revenue package. For those who were listening at the Senate’s
transportation "listening session" on Oct. 14 in Seattle, here’s
are one of the top aerospace suppliers. We will ship 1¼
parts," said John Theisen, president of Orion Industries in Federal Way, who
was there to implore the 11 lawmakers onstage to deal with traffic congestion.
"Delivery schedules that once could be accomplished in four days now take
five. The Everett-to-Auburn route that used to take a half-day now takes a
That kind of
freight and employee mobility problem substantially raises the cost of doing
business in Washington, not just for Boeing and its suppliers, but for all
businesses. That's been the consistent message from Boeing and the
rest of Washington's business community throughout the 2013 legislative
session: the Legislature must pass -- not punt to voters, but pass -- a
transportation revenue package that begins paying for the upkeep and
construction of roads and bridges.
The House -- thanks to leadership from Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), House Speaker
Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) and Gov. Inslee -- took the tough vote and approved
such a package earlier this year. But the Republican-controlled Senate never
considered it, largely because it included funding for the controversial
Columbia River Crossing between Vancouver and Portland. After months of
hearings and debate, the Senate never took a vote or proposed an alternative
The governor has
taken the CRC off the table and traveled the state to plead for action on
transportation. The Senate has finished its listening sessions and their
leaders have been meeting for weeks to try to agree internally on a plan. So,
for more than 10 months, the Senate has been working on a transportation
package that addresses the concerns of Boeing and the rest of the business
community -- not to mention the general public -- and still has nothing to
show for it.
Surely, now that
the Boeing 777X work is specifically at stake, the Senate would be moved to
DITHERING IS NOT AN OPTION
Within hours of the
governor's call for a special session, the Senate Republican Majority
Coalition Caucus (MCC) issued a
press release that said that they were fine with four out of five of the
governor's special-session agenda items: all of them except transportation
and union officials are fine with giving lawmakers more time to work on a
transportation-investment package," the MCC wrote, "rather than expecting
them to hurry something so complex through during the special session."
organized labor isn't "fine" with that. And it's unlikely that Boeing
is either. Transportation funding is not so "complex" that it can't be
accomplished during this special session. A template is already in place -- the House-approved legislation minus the Columbia River Crossing. At
Tuesday's press conference, House Speaker Frank Chopp said
he believed that lawmakers' work could be done within a week, adding, "We
are working in good faith to come up with a revised package."
The Senate has
equivocated for more than 10 months on transportation funding to no avail.
There is no reason to think that more time will cure their obvious aversion to
taking a tough vote on raising gas taxes to fund transportation improvements.
In fact, waiting until we get closer to next year's election will further
weaken their political resolve to act.
Do you think
Democrats are eager to come to Olympia to extend a multi-billion corporate tax
break? Of course not. But the governor and Democratic leaders understand that
now is the time for action, not excuses or wishful thinking.
It is not a
question of time, it is a question of resolve.
OF IDEOLOGICAL POISON PILLS
The danger of a
special session is that the governor can set an agenda, but legislators
don't need to follow it. Unrelated legislation can be introduced to try to
ride the coattails of the Boeing incentive package. Amendments can be added to
the governor’s proposals that introduce controversial ideological policies
that wouldn’t pass on their own merits.
summer's transportation listening sessions, press reports noted that the
Senate MCC was guiding the conversation toward their recurring theme of "reform before
revenue." There was talk of long-sought ideological
policies like changing prevailing wage laws in such a way that road
construction workers earn less or relaxing apprenticeship utilization
standards. Even the state's conservative-leaning newspaper editorial boards
saw this was a road to nowhere.
(transportation funding) package can be held hostage to a partisan wish list
and deal killers such as 'an open dialogue on prevailing wage'," read an
Aug. 13 editorial in The (Everett) Herald. "Most assume these
throwaways were inserted to assuage red-meat caucus members. But keep-'em-happy
politics can't be allowed to sidetrack the package goal."
That is doubly true
now that the 777X deal hinges on action. If conservative lawmakers attempt to
insert these types of policy changes into the package, that's a sure sign
that they don’t want to take the tough vote on gas taxes or they aren't
taking seriously the threat of losing Boeing work.
Oct. 17 editorial entitled "Transportation package must be passed
without gridlock," The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review wrote: "As the
U.S. House Republicans demonstrated during the government shutdown, it isn't
realistic to extract major concessions on controversial issues from a minority
position. Until Republicans gain control of the House or governorship, it's
counterproductive to hold up transportation projects until they get their
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