Robinson’s bill would tie Boeing tax breaks to Washington jobs

OLYMPIA — An Everett lawmaker renewed her efforts Monday to tie the state’s huge tax break for the Boeing Co. with the number of people the aerospace giant employs in Washington.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, introduced a bill to require the company to maintain certain job levels in order to reap the full benefits of tax incentives extended in 2013. As written, House Bill 2638 could result in Boeing losing half its tax break because of reductions in its workforce the past two years.

Robinson pushed similar legislation last session without success. This year’s version has two Republican co-sponsors, a sign she said of concerns about layoffs and transfers of Boeing workers since the Legislature acted.

“I just think as jobs continue to leave the state, more and more people are getting frustrated,” Robinson said Monday.

The House Finance Committee plans a hearing on her bill at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. TVW will broadcast and stream it live.

House Bill 2638 would amend the 2013 law that helped land the 777X program in Everett by extending the expiration date on a suite of tax incentives from 2024 to 2040. The move will save Boeing an estimated $8.7 billion in tax payments to the state through 2040.

The bill would tie the amount of incentive with the size of Boeing’s workforce in Washington. It sets a baseline of 83,295 jobs which is the number Boeing reported employing in the state at the time the tax break extension was approved.

If the company’s total employment here drops between 4,000 and 5,000 below that baseline, it loses half of its preferential business and occupation tax rate and tax credit. In other words, it will pay more taxes.

The threshold has already been crossed. Boeing’s latest workforce report shows 79,238 jobs in Washington as of Dec. 31 — which is 4,057 fewer than when the tax break got extended.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 751 and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace helped Robinson craft the bill as they did with last year’s version.

The two unions contend the state gave Boeing too good a deal by not clawing back any of the tax breaks when the firm ships jobs out of state.

Larry Brown, political director for the Machinists, said he’s “very optimistic” the bill will get a vote this year because of what’s occurred.

“As we see Boeing continuing to shed jobs from the state of Washington, there is increasing interest in providing accountability for the largest single tax break for any industry by any state,” Brown said.

Representatives of aerospace firms which do business with Boeing are expected to testify against the bill.

“When you look at the indirect negative impact on them, it could be substantial,” said Kelly Maloney, executive director of the Aerospace Futures Alliance.

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

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