Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I just returned from Olympia after completing yet another special session. The governor called the Legislature together, not for the budget, but to adopt a package of bills aimed at keeping production of the Boeing 777X in Washington state. The governor outlined four things for the Legislature to act on:
- a tax incentive package for aerospace businesses in Washington;
- increased permitting efficiency for aerospace facilities;
- funding for additional workforce development; and
- a transportation revenue package (gas tax and other transportation fees for current and new projects around the state).
Two bills came out of this special session that the Legislature just acted on: House Bill 2088 and Senate Bill 5952. The governor's top three requests were acted upon by the Legislature with this legislation. The governor led his press conference about a special session with the importance of a transportation tax package for Boeing, but it quickly became clear that increasing the gas tax was not critical for Boeing's immediate plans in Washington.
Certainly, Boeing is an important employer in our state on which other smaller businesses across Washington, including in Spokane, depend. However, if the actions we took benefit one of the largest employers in our state, they should be considered for every sector of our economy, not just aerospace. This was a great start to addressing our business climate, and I hope to see it continue.
Earlier this year there was a quite a debate on tax incentives. I and my Republican colleagues believe incentives, if done correctly, can help protect and create jobs in Washington. I was glad to see nearly everyone come together in agreement that tax incentives not only protect and create jobs, but can provide a major return on their investment. This is great for our economic prosperity, and I hope to see this practice continue with other sectors of our economy so that we can create more job opportunities for the people of our state.
Though the governor tried to push through a transportation revenue package in order to keep Boeing, it became clear he may have jumped the gun because there was no legislative agreement on a final package and Boeing did not put transportation as its immediate priority. However, talk of a transportation revenue package continues, and we may see another push when the Legislature returns to Olympia for scheduled Committee Days Nov. 21 and 22.
Before I share my thoughts on a revenue package, I want to hear from you. Please take 5-10 minutes to complete this survey, asking: Do you support a gas tax? Could you afford to pay more at the pump? How do you think transportation funds should be prioritized?
There are, without doubt, transportation needs across our state, and in Spokane County:
- North-South Freeway – The governor even mentioned this project in his press conference earlier this week. How many times have we heard promises about completing the North-South freeway? And what about other critical economic development needs in our community?
- Freight portal off I-90 at exit 272 – This growing need would have an immediate return on investment in a growing neighborhood that could have better access to the airport and major employers.
- Expansion of Highway 904 with I-90 – This would provide real economic development and access for the city of Cheney.
Spokane County has long been a contributor county to the gas tax investments across the state – for every dollar Spokane drivers sent to Olympia in gas taxes from 2004-2012, we saw about 84 cents returned to our region. Maintaining our infrastructure statewide is important for all of us: when we travel, to ensure goods get to market and to our stores. However, I cannot support taking more from your wallets when Spokane has needs now that should have been funded within existing revenues. For too long we have heard promises broken.
As the Legislature considers issues like tax incentives and transportation needs, I think it's important for us to broaden these discussions and think about the big picture. Long-term thinking is critical in making decisions for our state that will impact generations to come.
Please always feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns with state government. It's an honor to serve you.