House approves tax break for Boeing

OLYMPIA — The Washington House gave lopsided approval today to Gov. Gary Locke’s bold multibillion-dollar tax break for the aerospace industry.

One lawmaker called it "a Hail Mary pass" aimed at boosting the state’s chance of landing the opportunity to assemble Boeing's proposed new jetliner, the 7E7. Another said the tax break was feeding the state’s "800-pound gorilla."

The House voted 79-13 in favor of the proposal the governor has dubbed the "Blue Sky Tax Incentives."

Fourteen states are competing for the project, with community bids due June 20. It will be months, though, before Boeing’s board of directors makes the crucial decision of whether to proceed with the company’s first all-new jet since the 777.

Boeing has been a fixture in Washington since 1916, but the state is now competing with other locales that are also putting together incentive packages.

Locke has said the very future of the state’s aerospace industry is at stake.

The tax package, available only if Boeing assembles the new 7E7 here, is worth about $400 million over the next six years, and perhaps $3.2 billion over 20 years.

The breaks include a 40 percent cut in business taxes, research and development tax credits and lower property taxes.

The measure, House Bill 2294, was rushed to the Senate for likely approval. Lawmakers faced a midnight adjournment of their special session, which has turned into a save-Boeing crusade in recent days.

Meanwhile, the Senate gave strong bipartisan approval to another major bill backed by Boeing and the state’s business community — a plan to revamp the state’s expensive unemployment system. The vote was 33-12, including about half of the Democratic caucus.

The measure, Senate Bill 6097, went to the House, where Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, was crafting a counteroffer more palatable to organized labor.