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Legislative Committee Recommends Toughening Requirements For Aerospace Tax Breaks

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
FILE - 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.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Gerry Pollet's name. We've also removed a sentence that said last year's tax preference extension hasn't yet gone into effect. It took effect July 9, 2014. 

Last year, the Washington state legislature extended aerospace tax breaks worth an estimated $8.7 billion in an effort to persuade Boeing to build the 777x jet here. 
The company did commit to build the plane here, but at the same time, Boeing has announced plans to move thousands of other jobs away. And that has some lawmakers in Olympia ready to require companies to meet tougher criteria to qualify for lower tax rates.

Gerry Pollet is a democratic state representative from Seattle. He says watching Boeing move jobs away motivated him to want to sponsor legislation to toughen tax breaks for the aerospace industry.

The extension passed last year added language that says it's the legislature's "public policy objective to maintain and grow Washington's aerospace industry workforce." Pollet says the legislature should add more specific language to require companies such as Boeing to show they're adding or at least maintaining jobs here.

“I will be proposing that we say you can’t lose jobs and still get your tax preference when you got the tax preference by saying you’re increasing jobs,” Pollet said.

Pollet is part of a joint House and Senate committee that just voted to recommend that the legislature set measurable targets for how many aerospace jobs should be created through the tax breaks.

But the committee decided to remove stronger language Pollet had advocated that would have taken away a proportional amount of the tax break if a company failed to produce the promised number of jobs.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder says the company opposes changes. He says the tax incentives have benefited the state economy; Boeing has added almost 30,000 jobs here since they were passed in 2003.

"Contrary to what some might say, the tax incentives are not specific to Boeing," Alder said in a statement. "These incentives, which cost the state nothing, are currently used by more than 450 Washington aerospace companies. The state's own analysis estimates this tax extension, as approved by a near-unanimous majority in the state legislature, will likely generate more than $21.3 billion in state and local tax revenue."

Still, in the past two years, Boeing’s headcount in Washington has dropped by more than 5,000 positions.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.