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Inslee Signs Boeing Tax Breaks as Machinists Mull Labor Proposal

Elaine Thompson
Associated Press
Gov. Jay Inslee, center, adjusts his glasses as he prepares to sign legislation to help keep production of Boeing's new 777X in Washington, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

It’s official: Boeing will get nearly $9 billion in tax incentives from the state of Washington in a deal aimed to guarantee Boeing will build its 777X and carbon-fiber wings in the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed his name to the tax breaks Monday morning after legislators approved the deal over the weekend. Inslee told reporters that the state has a lot to gain.

“The plan is to win this airplane. The plan is to build 56,000 jobs, and we're focusing on that job. That’s job number one today,” Inslee said.

Credit Ed Ronco
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner speaks at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013.

Boeing has said it would build the commercial airliner elsewhere if it didn’t get tax breaks from the state and a new contract from machinists. Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told reporters the claim is “not a bluff,” but the company hopes it doesn’t come to that. The eight-year deal includes changes to retirement, and has been met with scorn from the union.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, echoing the governor, said other states want the Boeing projects, too, but she stopped short of telling the union how to vote.

“I just think it's really important the Boeing machinists make their own decisions inside their own family. That's what they have to do,” said Murray, D-Wash. “I do know that the competition is very tough, and there are a lot of people rooting for our failure.”

Members of the machinists union have said agreeing to the contract would compromise their principles and undo years of negotiations. The union will vote on Wednesday.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.