Can state lawmakers save the Boeing 777X deal?

SEATTLE -- Just a day after Machinists rejected Boeing’s contract offer, the company says it has aggressively begun looking at other states to assemble the 777x.  Despite that, Gov. Jay Inslee believes Washington will ultimately prevail.

But many wonder if more needs to be done to sweeten the deal beyond the historic tax breaks approved by state lawmakers last week.

Given that Washington has already offered $9 billion to help secure Boeing’s eventual 777x production here, some might ask whether there’s anything else the state can possibly do.  After all, that’s the largest corporate tax break any state has ever given in U.S. history.  But legislators from both sides of the aisle in Olympia have been coming forth  with lot of ideas.

One of the most dramatic is from state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.  He said the governor should immediately call another special legislative session and lawmakers should pass a “right-to-work" law.  That would give employees the right to not join unions and would make organized labor a less powerful force.

“It’s not a mystery, right-to-work states are grabbing these jobs right now,” Baumgartner said.  “Why wouldn’t we want to be on the same competitive playing field?”

Baumgartner argues that states with right-to-work laws are more “predictable” for business.  “They’re going to have a friendlier environment,” he said, “much less likely to have strikes and things that cost a lot of jobs.”

Baumgartner doesn’t buy the argument that Boeing is just bluffing about needing to cuts costs.

“Just because Boeing has some fantastic profit margins today doesn’t mean those are going to be there 10 and 15 years down the line,” he said.  “Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state just last year.  They did it when it was too late, after an uncompetitive environment has driven too many jobs from that state.”

The Democratic side is saying that the single best thing the state can do now is pass a big transportation package funded by a 10-cent hike in the state gas tax.

“Passing it shows that we know how to govern,” said state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island.  “This is something that shows that we are behind them.”

Clibborn says fixing the state's roads and bridges would make a huge difference in making it easier for Boeing to do business here.

“You have getting people to work, you have getting vendors to and from their businesses, and you get actual Boeing parts moving on the road,” she said.

Wednesday night, after the Machinists vote, Inslee cited a transportation package as important to securing Boeing’s 777X production in Washington.  Last week he indicated that he hoped a gas tax deal could be reached by the end of November.