If Boeing Co. continues to shrink its workforce in Washington, a bill under consideration in the state House would revoke or reduce the aerospace giant’s tax breaks.
Machinists, engineers, union representatives and Boeing executives testified Friday on House Bill 2147, which requires the company to employ at least 83,295 Washington workers to receive its full tax break. The tax break would be reduced for every 250 lost jobs, and the incentive would disappear altogether if the workforce dips below 78,295 people in Washington.
Gov. Jay Inslee in November 2013 signed tax incentives totaling as much as $8.7 billion for Boeing through 2040. In return, Boeing agreed to build the 777X and the plane’s composite wings in Washington.
But that deal approved by the Legislature in a special session didn’t stop layoffs. New jobs weren’t an official part of the deal, but prime sponsor Rep. June Robinson told the House Finance Committee on Friday that’s what the state expected.
“What we’ve seen since then is headline after headline of jobs leaving our state instead of new jobs being introduced,” the Everett Democrat said.
Barbara Hoyt, a Boeing worker from Poulsbo, said she worked for the company while in her dying husband’s hospital room. Now she’s being laid off. “We need you to do what you can to keep these workers here in Washington,” she told the committee.
Opponents of the bill say Boeing has held up its part of the deal, so Washington should, too. “What is the message we’re sending?” Association of Washington Business president Chris Johnson said. “I’m concerned this says Washington is a state that doesn’t stand by their commitments.”
Boeing executive Bill McSherry said the company’s workforce in Washington has grown significantly in the past decade. People in the state made up one-third of Boeing’s global workforce in 2003, now half of its workers are in the state.
“Changing incentives now after waiting until Boeing has already invested more than $1 billion to deliver on 777 promises threatens to undermine not only our trust in the state, but the confidence of all businesses, here and those looking to come here, that Washington will honor its commitments,” he said.
The bill was not scheduled for a vote during Friday’s hearing.