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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Senate approves tax break for jet repair company

OLYMPIA -- Despite pleas from Spokane lawmakers that they were giving King County an unfair advantage over the rest of the state, the Senate gave final approval to a tax break for an aviation maintenance company in Seattle.

Gateway Aviation will get a specially crafted sales tax exemption for the construction of a new maintenance facility at Boeing Field. The bill is written to give the exemption only to a company at an airport in a county with more than 1.5 million people, which means it's limited to King County.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, tried to amend the bill so that the tax break would be available in any county, so all airports trying to lure new business would have "a level playing field." 

He got support from other Spokane-area legislators, but also from some Seattle Democrats who are often on opposite sides in fiscal debates. Sen. Jamie Pedersen said he has qualms about many tax exemptions but this one would be "less objectionable if it's not so obviously a bill designed to help one county." 

. Reuven Carlyle called it the "ultimate selection of winners and losers," and the most consequential tax bill of the year. It could also start a trend, he added: "Amazon and Expedia have every right to turn around and say 'We'd like this deal, too.'"

Supporters said the exemption is specifically targeted because Gateway is only looking at expanding at Boeing Field. If the tax exemption was changed, the deal could fall through and the company could build its new maintenance facility in Portland.

Baumgartner's amendment failed and the exemption itself was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee on a 28-20 vote.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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