Washington state pitches more help for Boeing

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By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Even after giving Boeing Co. one of the largest packages of tax breaks in U.S. history, state leaders in Washington told the aerospace giant in a proposal released Wednesday that they are ready to do even more.

In the 164-page proposal obtained under public disclosure laws, Gov. Jay Inslee and his administration vowed to work with Boeing on water quality issues, workers' compensation costs and improved transportation infrastructure.

State officials identified more than $4 billion in possible transportation projects that they deemed "key to Boeing's success in Washington state." Lawmakers have yet to approve a transportation package proposed last year that would include those projects.

"Washington's government is stable and is dedicated to partnering with Boeing and its supply chain to create the most competitive economic environment possible," officials wrote in the pitch.

Washington leaders approved nearly $9 billion in tax breaks in November to aid Boeing, and the additional written proposal was designed to woo Boeing as the company considered competing bids from other states interested in attracting work.

The bidding process became unnecessary after machinists in Puget Sound voted earlier this month to approve contract concessions that led to a promise by Boeing to build the 777X in the region.

The latest proposal from the Inslee administration raised issues such as water quality that have been sensitive for the governor and his fellow Democrats.

"We are eager to partner with Boeing to better understand the company's specific challenges and to develop reasonable and rational water quality regulations that protect the health of Washingtonians without unduly impacting the company and other economic engines of our state," officials wrote.

For years, state officials have been studying the water quality standards influenced by estimates of how much fish people eat.

Washington's estimate is that average fish consumption amounts to just 8 ounces — roughly one fillet — per person, per month. Environmental groups are pushing federal and state officials to adopt more realistic estimates, something that could force changes in water quality rules.

Boeing has expressed concern about the state process for updating the fish consumption standards. While much of Inslee's career has been built around environmental stewardship, his administration said in its recent pitch to Boeing that officials "are concerned about any potential impacts that these updated standards could have on Boeing operations."

Democrats in the Legislature have also balked at further changes to the workers' compensation system after a 2011 overhaul designed to reduce costs. Republicans in the state Senate have proposed further changes, and Inslee's administration said in its Boeing pitch that it was committed to working with Boeing to identify and implement further cost-saving measures.

Alex Pietsch, who serves as Inslee's top aerospace adviser, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he doesn't have any regrets about how the state wooed Boeing. He noted that the fish consumption and workers' compensation proposals do not commit the state to doing anything other than working with the company to find a way forward.

"At the end of the day, we know that tens of thousands of jobs are going to be engaged in building the most technologically-advanced airplane in the world for decades to come," Pietsch said. "That's a great thing for Washington state."

Washington's pitch identified several potential sites for Boeing 777X production and support facilities in the state, including areas in Everett, Renton, Auburn, Frederickson, Seattle and West Spokane, which officials deemed a lower-cost alternative to Everett.

State officials touted the company's century-long ties with the region, its large aerospace workforce, broad college training programs, ports and hydroelectric power as some of the other reasons Boeing should stay in Washington.

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AP Writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.

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