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© Krantz News Service, November 15, 2013

Washington State's Special Session For Boeing May Be In Vain, As Machinists Reject Contract

Copyright © 2013 Krantz News Service             

Less than a week after the Washington legislature in special session approved a record benefits package for Boeing, the company's machinists have rejected a contract offer.

By a 2 to 1 margin, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751 said no to certain pension and other concessions in exchange for long term job security.

The vote roils the state's politics and opens a new bidding war among several states for work on Boeing's next-generation 777X.

Boeing has said that without certain changes it would scope out new manufacturing locations for the plane outside of Washington.

Washington's lawmakers had responded; on just 48-hours notice for the 3-day special session, they approved nearly $9 billion in tax concessions through 2040. Inslee said the state would get back three or four times that sum in revenues.

But the entire deal hinged on a nod from the machinists.

And now the future of what Inslee termed "the largest job creating opportunity in the history of Washington State" is up in the air. And up for grabs from other states, including South Carolina, California and Texas.

Inslee said Boeing assured him Washington is still in the competition for the 777X work, and he vowed to fight on. But, he conceded after the machinists vote, "the reality is that we could have won tonight."

At the conclusion of Washington's special session on Saturday, Inslee had spoken triumphantly of the Boeing deal.

"Winning the 777X will secure tens of thousands of jobs and yield huge economic benefits for generations to come," he said. "And it will bolster our state?s legacy as the aerospace capital of the world."

The package extends tax incentives, expands technical education and training in the manufacturing of composite wings and expands certain permitting processes.

Some lawmakers questioned the haste of action; others wondered why tax breaks should boost Boeing rather than the entire business community.

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who voted for the package, decried the process, stating it looked to the public "like a multi-billion dollar backroom deal." Democratic Sen. Bob Hasegawa of Seattle, one of just two no votes on the issue, questioned "what the urgency is to rush this through."

Republican Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry wondered why the tax breaks couldn't go to small business, as well. "What's good for Goliath should be good for David," she said. The Senate rejected her amendment to broaden tax breaks for small business.

Members on both sides of the aisle agreed with Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's argument that what was good for Boeing was good for the state. Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom pointed to Boeing's innovative use of composites. Like plastics in the 60's, he noted, composites use would spread rapidly.

Significant Developments in Several States

Washington's special session for Boeing was just one of several key special sessions among the states in recent days.

New Hampshire is debating an expansion of Medicaid, and Hawaii lawmakers have approved gay marriage, a week after the Illinois legislature did the same.

Special Session in New Hampshire Continues

The question in New Hampshire is whether to expand Medicaid and how long state-run managed care should cover poor recipients before requiring a shift to private coverage. The Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate offer competing plans.

Party leaders looked at a compromise plan Wednesday but failed to agree. Negotiations continue, with further committee work slated today.

"Both plans start by using private insurance for eligible adults already on employer-sponsored plans and enroll others into the state's Medicaid managed care program," The Associated Press reported. "The Senate's proposal shifts people onto the new health insurance exchange in 2015, with the federal government paying for private coverage."

Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan and House Speaker Terie Norelli tendered the compromise offer.

Their joint statement said that their plan would "adopt the Senate proposal to shift the entire newly eligible population of individuals and families with incomes at 0-133 percent of federal poverty onto New Hampshire's health insurance exchange with premium assistance, but on a timeline that allows for workable, responsible and effective implementation, including increased competition to ensure cost-effectiveness on the exchange."

In a prepared statement, Republican Senate President Chuck Morse said he "appreciate(s)" the Democratic offer to "come together" in compromise, but he rejected their call to remove the deadlines in the Senate proposal: "The Governor's proposal is an unsustainable entitlement," he stated.

Hawaii Approves Gay Marriage

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday signed into a law legalizing marriage between gay couples. The law is effective Dec. 2, making Hawaii the 15th state to legalize gay marriage.

Abercrombie called the new law "part of the long history of civil rights movements in the United States." He noted that "(t)he result advances equity in marriage and honors all First Amendment religious imperatives."

Hawaii lawmakers had passed the measure on Tuesday after a special session lasting more than two weeks. Language to the bill added before final passage states that religious officers "shall not be required to solemnize any marriage that is in violation of their religious beliefs or faith." The bill also grants religious organizations "exemption under certain circumstances."

Illinois Governor to Sign Gay Marriage Bill

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign Illinois' new gay marriage law next Wednesday. The law will take effect in Illinois on June 1 of next year.

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