Bill would require Boeing to maintain 79,500 jobs in state

OLYMPIA — An Ellensburg state lawmaker introduced a bill Thursday that would require the Boeing Co. to provide a certain number of jobs in Washington in exchange for receiving billions of dollars in tax breaks.

But the bill put forth by Republican Rep. Matt Manweller doesn’t contain any penalties if the company doesn’t comply.

And the bill might not be seriously considered before 2016 because lawmakers are embroiled in special session devoted to enacting a new state budget. If a spending plan isn’t in place by July 1 when the fiscal year begins some state services will be halted.

Manweller acknowledged those long odds Thursday but said he hoped to keep alive the conversation on how the state can better measure the effectiveness of the tax breaks.

Under House Bill 2265, Boeing would be required to maintain at least 79,500 jobs in Washington. Each year, the Employment Security Department would let lawmakers know if the target is being met or exceeded.

“It does not take away any of the tax exemption but it will create an official job standard and we can decide what to do if is not met,” he said.

“It is a modest proposal that takes an incremental step that both honors the deal we made with Boeing and respects the concerns that SPEEA engineers have about job losses,” Manweller said. SPEEA is the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Two years ago, lawmakers extended the expiration date on a suite of tax incentives from 2024 to 2040 to help convince the aerospace giant to assemble its newest-generation jetliner in the state. The extension will save Boeing an estimated $8.7 billion in tax payments to the state through 2040.

After the company secured a new contract with the Machinists, Boeing agreed to build the 777X in Everett.

The tax break bill did not require Boeing to maintain a certain number of jobs in Washington. Since that decision, the company has reduced its workforce by roughly 3,000 workers. Boeing transferred some of those jobs to other states in order to secure tax breaks.

Meanwhile, a bill awaiting action in the House Finance Committee would reduce Boeing’s tax break if the firm trimmed its workforce. That bill is sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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