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Boeing Workers Facing Job Cuts Urge Lawmakers To Toughen Aerospace Tax Breaks

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Ashley Gross
/
KPLU
Boeing's 777 production line in Everett. Lawmakers extended tax incentives in 2013 in order to win the production line of the next version of the plane, the 777X.

Boeing workers facing job cuts are urging state lawmakers to require more from aerospace companies in exchange for tax breaks. The Washington legislature passed a 16-year extension of the tax incentives in 2013 to win Boeing's 777X production line.  

The House Finance Committee held a hearing on two bills aimed at toughening the state’s aerospace tax breaks. One of the measures would claw back some of the tax breaks Boeing receives because the company has shed about 3,000 jobs since then.

Barbara Hoyt testified that she’s worked for Boeing for 35 years. She just found out she’s losing her job.

"I recently became a widow four months ago. I sat with my husband in his hospital room and I did work to make sure that critical things were done at the right times in support of my system," Hoyt said. "Getting laid off now, I told my manager, is a slap in the face."

Boeing's Testimony

Boeing executive Bill McSherry told lawmakers that changing the incentives now would undermine trust. He says over the long haul, Boeing has shown its commitment to the state.

"Boeing’s current employment of 80,000 in Washington is among the highest in recent history and it’s the result of a series of conscious choices by this company to locate work in this state," McSherry said. 

He said Boeing is upholding its end of the bargain by investing more than $1 billion in Everett to build the 777X and its composite wing. 

Tom Gendzwill is a Boeing engineer who testified that he supports the tax incentives but wants more accountability requirements. He said his job is being moved to Southern California. 

"The thousands of jobs that have already been relocated runs contrary to the expectation of all the taxpayers in Washington," Gendzwill said. "None of us taxpayers ever thought that the tax breaks from Washington to Boeing - our tax dollars - would subsidize Boeing's expenses for moving those jobs out of state."

The other bill lawmakers are considering aims to lift wages in the aerospace industry

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.