Editorial: Time to land Boeing 777X
The Legislature should work collaboratively to respond to Boeing and Aerospace Machinists’ requests during the special legislative session.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE Aerospace Machinists leaders and Boeing have reached a historic agreement. They both now ask for certain action by the Legislature. Union members should ratify the agreement and legislators should accommodate it.
In order to keep 777X assembly work and its wing manufacturing in Washington — not in South Carolina, not in Japan, but here — Machinist negotiators have made some remarkable concessions. They didn’t do this because they were bad negotiators. They are realists. They knew they had to negotiate to keep this work. They have. Their accomplishment should be ratified.
Boeing and the Machinists now go together to Olympia asking for several things in a special session that started Thursday:
First is expansion of tax breaks on factory buildings for aerospace work, and extension of the business tax breaks initially passed in 2003. This is not lost revenue for the state because if the 777X were not assembled here, there would be no revenue to tax.
Second is money to boost student enrollments in aerospace subjects at community and technical colleges and to finish the Central Sound Aerospace Training Center in Renton. These are investments that move students into jobs.
Third is a grant program to allow local authorities to do environmental work for industrial zoned land before a company asks permission to build on it. Everett has done this for Boeing and has proved the wisdom of it. The proposal is to help other communities do it.
Fourth is Gov. Jay Inslee’s assurance that new and stricter water-quality standards for the state’s rivers will allow manufacturing to continue unimpeded. Boeing now has that commitment.
The governor also called for urgent action on a package of state transportation taxes and road and transit projects. This is important, but it should not be a rush job under the guise of a 777X deal. Progress on this is tougher. Gas and road taxes add to business costs, which affect the creation of jobs. The state Department of Transportation is not as efficient as it could be — and the governor has a management and leadership role to play on that. Also, the selection of road projects is too political. Still, a package is needed soon.
Any tax package should be placed on the ballot. This is the tradition in Washington, and voters have stepped up when the case has been made. If putting such measures on the ballot adds political risk, legislators should consider the risk of not doing it.
Important items. Whether a “no” on any of them would sink the deal is not certain. Let’s not find out. The 777X would support 50,000 jobs. Good jobs. Family-wage jobs. Keep them here.