Inslee calls special session to keep Boeing project in state; 10-cent gas tax hike part of package
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Gov. Jay Inslee announcing Tuesday that he's calling the Legislature into special session Thursday.

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The state Legislature will meet in a special session starting Thursday to consider a $10 billion transportation package and other legislation Gov. Jay Inslee said is key to landing the manufacturing plant for a new Boeing jetliner, the 777X.

Standing with legislative leaders, Boeing executives and union officials on Tuesday, Inslee said a combination of transportation improvements, extended tax breaks, faster permits for building and aerospace education programs would guarantee the company will build the new jetliner and a new carbon-fiber wing in Washington.

One aspect of the package would increase the state's 55.9-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon phased in over 12 years to fund the $10 billion transportation package.

In announcing that he was calling the Legislature into special session to consider the package, the governor said he expected the session to last a week.

But it's not clear that's a realistic goal. Legislators have been wrestling over transportation improvements for many months, and now Inslee has called for a decision in connection with the agreement with Boeing.

Members of the GOP-led majority in the Senate hinted strongly Tuesday that reaching a deal could take longer.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, standing by Inslee at the news conference, said that given the complexity of the transportation issues, “there is an understanding by all the parties that (a deal) might have to be a second phase.”

The legislative package is half of a two-part deal with Boeing.

The other half is a new long-term labor deal between Boeing and the Machinists Union which would result in big cuts in future pension and health care benefits. Union members will earn a $10,000 signing bonus, if it passes, payable within a month.

Inslee's proposals, in addition to the transportation package, include:

■ Extension of commercial-airplane tax incentives until 2040, first enacted to persuade Boeing to build the 787 in the state.

■ Millions of dollars in education and workforce development spending to boost enrollments in aerospace fields at community and technical colleges.

■ Streamlined permitting for large manufacturing sites.

■ New water quality goals — linked to the average fish-consumption rate — that industry can live with.

Separately on Tuesday, Chicago-based Boeing proposed the eight-year labor agreement that would guarantee construction of the new 777X in the Puget Sound area.

The Machinists union said in a statement that union members will vote on the offer soon.

Inslee spokesman David Postman said that the entire package that lawmakers will consider will be contingent on two things: the union approving the agreement, and if that occurs, Boeing following through on its promise.

The governor said lawmakers have a “framework” of a deal on transportation, and he's confident the last few areas of disagreement can be resolved in the next week.

The package includes completing state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, finishing the state Route 520 bridge replacement, and a new highway in Spokane — but not a new Columbia River Crossing between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

If it is similar to a version that passed the House before being bottled up in the Senate this year, the package would raise the gas tax by roughly 10 cents and raise a series of fees.

Last modified: November 06. 2013 2:29AM
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