Wednesday, February 5, 2014
SEATTLE — Boeing lobbyists are throwing a "thank you" party for Washington state lawmakers who helped provide the company with billions in tax breaks.
An invitation obtained by The Associated Press shows Boeing executives will host a reception for lawmakers Wednesday evening at a house across the street from the Capitol campus in Olympia. The invitation to lawmakers says the event will "thank you for your efforts to land the 777X in Washington state."
Last year, the Legislature approved an extension of Boeing tax breaks in a deal worth an estimated $8.7 billion. Lawmakers swiftly approved the idea in a special session, which put pressure on union workers to accept a contract that transitioned them away from pension plans.
Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle, who helped guide the tax package through the Legislature, said he declined to attend Boeing events late last year — such as a dinner with company officials — when lawmakers were considering the deal. He said those early events didn't feel appropriate, but he had no objections to lawmakers attending Boeing's reception this week now that time has passed.
"I don't see anything wrong with a casual get-together," Carlyle said. He noted that both large and small organizations in the state host events for lawmakers and that Boeing hosts receptions every year, regardless of whether the company is pursuing a large agenda.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the Olympia reception is an opportunity to celebrate the future of aerospace and keeping the 777X in the state.
"Every member of the Washington state Legislature is invited to participate, and the event is within the guidelines that govern interaction with elected officials," Alder said.
Boeing has said the tax breaks and the worker concessions were enough to secure the 777X production for Washington state and the thousands of jobs that come with it. The company had been exploring offers from other states.
Political leaders had feared that losing the 777X would lead to an exodus of aerospace jobs for the region.