In a surprise announcement today, Gov. Jay Inslee said he's calling a special session of the legislature to begin this Thursday.
The media and public have been anticipating that Inslee was going to call legislators back to Olympia to pass a transportation package, but Inslee is tying the session to Boeing's 777X airplane contract, framing the session as weeklong mission to pass a package of legislation that is a must-have in order for Boeing and its machinist union to reach a labor agreement and get to work on the next-generation plane.
The legislative package includes transportation funding (Republicans balked at a transportation package during this year's legislative sessions because the $10 billion proposal included a ten-and-a-half-cent tax increase and funding for light rail. The transportation package had also included a local option that would allow voters in King County to approve taxes to prevent Metro bus cuts.)
The savvy political move dramatizes a point Inslee and the Democrats have been making to Republicans all year: Business, a typical ally of the GOP, wants the legislature to pass a transportation package. (Business might want the package, but environmentalists are mixed on it because, while it will provide emergency help for Metro, it's mostly a roads package that de-prioritizes transit.)
In addition to passing a transportation package (there's no bill yet, but Inslee says a $10 billion package is still the goal), the to-do list includes, among other things: extending to 2040 existing airplane construction tax breaks that are currently set to expire in 2024 (which would cost about $8 billion, Inslee says, but would also bring $17 billion in revenues for the state), investments in technical colleges, and scaling back water quality goals that Boeing opposes.
"You get us this transportation package," Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith paraphrased Boeing execs, "and we're building the 777X here."
My rejoinder to Smith: Boeing's blackmailing you and you're blackmailing the Republicans?
"We are all working together to create jobs in Washington," Smith said. Smith points out that 777 work generated $20 billion in economic activity last year and supports 56,000 jobs.
State Sen. Rodney Tom (D-41, Medina), the leader of the GOP-dominated senate Majority Coalition Caucus, was at Inslee's press conference today, along with both reps from Boeing and the machinists' union, to show support for Inslee's play.