Inslee seeks millions for aero education, training

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee today called for investing millions of dollars to educate and train workers for the aerospace industry as part of a broader plan for creating jobs statewide.

Inslee is seeking $5 million to add 500 slots in high-demand aerospace-related courses at community and technical colleges throughout Washington. He also wants to pump another $1 million into a revolving loan program for students in the state’s three aerospace training centers, including the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center in Everett.

And the governor said he will ask lawmakers to provide $750,000 for Washington State University to launch an electrical engineering program at the University Center on the campus of Everett Community College.

Inslee’s multi-pronged approach also calls for boosting instruction of science, technology, engineering and math in high schools and colleges, encouraging expansion of clean energy companies and underwriting research and development which might spawn new industries.

The plan will cost an estimated $120 million, though Inslee said he doesn’t know how many jobs might result.

“If I did have a crystal ball, I would tell you how many,” he said. “I do not have a crystal ball.”

This evening Inslee was to deliver a speech about the initiatives to a Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood.

The aerospace proposals are part of a broader $120 million jobs package that would provide tax breaks for new companies in certain targeted fields and create a commission to ensure that state colleges and universities turn out students with math- and science-based skills relevant to the needs of the economy.

“We’re rolling out today an action agenda for a working Washington” with an underlying focus on innovation, growing human intellectual capital and aligning the state with the needs of new and expanding industries, Inslee said.

The Democratic governor’s proposals include up to $20 million in tax breaks for businesses hiring recent military veterans and another $8 million in tax incentives for startup companies in fields ranging from industrial-machinery manufacturing to software publishing.

With climate change a central campaign theme for Inslee, he also said he planned to engage the Legislature in creating a plan that would grow the state’s economy while limiting its carbon footprint.

Along similar lines, Inslee proposed several million dollars to be spent on electrical energy storage and building electric car charging stations.

Inslee also said he expected that the state’s expansion of Medicaid using federal dollars — approval of which is under consideration in the Legislature — would create more than 10,000 jobs.

The governor added that he supported a robust transportation spending plan and did not rule out backing a rise in the state’s gas tax to help fund it.

Republican leaders in the Legislature declared themselves broadly supportive of Inslee’s job-creation goals but insisted time is of the essence, with only a few days left for legislative committees to hear new policy-related bills.

“It’s one thing to go out and say you’re going to change the world and do something different,” said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, a Republican from Chehalis. “But if you miss your timelines — oops — then that doesn’t work for anybody. So he’s got to pick up the pace.”

Sen. Rodney Tom, a Medina Democrat who leads the GOP-dominated majority, applauded the governor’s focus on job creation but lamented his cool reception to recently passed Senate legislation to save businesses money by reducing workers’ compensation costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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