Peninsula legislators await details of transportation, Boeing packages; special session starts today in Olympia

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — State Sen. Jim Hargrove and Rep. Steve Tharinger say it’s too soon to tell how a proposed transportation package, which reportedly includes a 10.5-cent gasoline tax hike phased in over several years, would affect the North Olympic Peninsula.

Gov. Jay Inslee called a special legislative session beginning today for consideration of a $10 billion transportation package and other legislation he said was key to landing a manufacturing plant for a new Boeing jetliner.

Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said Wednesday that specifics of the package were “being drafted as we speak” and would not speculate on how it would affect the Peninsula.

Inslee wants the package passed within a week.

“I know it’s going to be challenging,” Hargrove said.

“We all have to get there and look at it.”

Tharinger, D-Sequim, said the special session likely will take longer than a week.

“I have not seen what the package is right now, so I don’t know what’s in it,” he said.

Tharinger said a higher gas tax would have a disproportionate effect on Peninsula residents because “we drive farther.”

Hargrove and Tharinger represent the 24th District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Both lawmakers found out about the special session shortly before Inslee’s news conference late Tuesday afternoon.

State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn told The Seattle Times that the proposed package includes a 10.5-cent increase in the state gas tax phased in over 12 years.

Transportation funding and a 10.5-cent gas tax increase failed in the Legislature earlier this year.

It passed in the House days before the final special session ended but was not taken up for a vote in the Senate.

Van De Wege initially voted against it because of the tax but eventually voted for it, along with Tharinger, to get the transportation budget out of the House, he said in July.

Hargrove said in July he likely would have voted against the transportation revenue package with its gas tax increase unless the package included a voter referendum on the tax itself.

Now, Inslee is asking the Legislature to pass an assortment of transportation, education, permitting and tax relief measures to win Boeing’s commitment to assemble the 777X jetliner and a new carbon-fiber wing in Washington.

Hargrove said Wednesday that Boeing has a “huge impact” on the entire state, not just the Puget Sound area.

“I know the governor had a task force looking at the 777 to try to keep as much of the work here as possible,” he said.

Boeing’s current 777 facility supports 56,000 jobs, and the 777X would create thousands more, Inslee said.

“We’re all interested in Boeing staying part of the state,” Hargrove said.

Tharinger added: “Having enough in the package that benefits our district is important, but we do benefit from a strong economy.”

In addition to the gasoline tax, Inslee also proposed to extend commercial airplane tax incentives, streamline permitting for manufacturing sites and dedicate millions of dollars to education and workforce development to boost enrollments in aerospace fields.

The other key to landing the 777X is a long-term labor deal between Boeing and the Machinists Union.

Inslee spokesman David Postman has said the legislative package will be contingent on the union approving the labor agreement and Boeing following through on its promise to assemble the 777X in Washington.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 06. 2013 6:33PM
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