OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature into a special session starting Thursday to pass a $10 billion transportation package and other legislation he said is key to landing the Boeing 777X.
Standing with legislative leaders, Boeing executives and union officials, Inslee said the combination of transportation improvements, extended tax breaks and aerospace education programs would guarantee the company will build the new jetliner and a new carbon fiber wing in Washington state.
The governor said he hoped the Legislature could agree to all the bills in seven days, but legislative leaders said there was no agreement yet on what taxes would be raised to pay for the transportation package, or how it would be spent among the state’s different needs for new roads and the maintenance of existing roads and bridges.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces,” Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the head of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, said. The transportation package “might have to be a second phase.”
Inslee said the legislation he is proposing, coupled with a long-term contract reached by Boeing and its machinists union, “will guarantee that the 777X and its carbon fiber wing will be built in Washington state.” The union is set to vote on that contract next week.
The 777X has the potential to generate 56,000 jobs in the state. “These jobs are ours if we act now,” Inslee said.
But action on the transportation package proved difficult early this year, during the Legislature’s regular session and two subsequent special sessions. In the last two months, the Senate Transportation Committee has held public meetings around the state and heard from hundreds of citizens. Although Inslee said he expects a package of about $10 billion of projects over 10 years, there’s no firm number on taxes that would be raised or list of projects that would be included.
The governor did say, however, that one of the major stumbling blocks for a transportation package during the previous sessions, the proposed Columbia River Crossing project between Vancouver and Portland, would not be part of the legislation.
Although an aide said Inslee expects the package to pass the Legislature without a requirement for a public vote, Tom noted that the number of signatures needed to force it onto the ballot is relatively small.
“Eventually, I believe the voters will have a chance to vote on it,” he said.
Also part of the package of bills to be proposed is an extension of tax exemptions on buildings that manufacture “superefficient airplanes.” Those are scheduled to expire in 2024, and Inslee is proposing they be extended to 2040. That extension would save Boeing about $8 billion through 2040.