Boeing got a record tax break from Washington state and cut jobs anyway. Now the state wants to strike back

May 5, 2017

“According to Good Jobs First, which tracks corporate subsidies, Missouri has offered Boeing $229 million in subsidies if the company maintains a workforce of 14,500 and creates 2,000 new jobs; if employment falls below 11,000, Boeing must repay the subsidy. South Carolina capped some of its $450 million in incentives to attract a 787 Dreamliner plant at $12,500 per new job and mandated other investment.

There’s little mystery to why Boeing was able to extract a lavish no-strings-attached handout from Washington. The company is the state’s biggest corporate employer and the source of thousands of high-paying professional jobs. But its demands also have turned Washington into the national leader in Boeing handouts, with $12.3 billion in incentives bestowed on the company over the years by the reckoning of Good Jobs First. (South Carolina comes in second.)

Washington’s multibillion-dollar endowment to Boeing dates back to 2003, when the state awarded the company more than $3.2 billion in incentives through 2024. But the big handout came in 2013, when Inslee and the legislature extended the incentives through 2040, at an estimated value of $8.7 billion.

But that only heightened the need for Washington to be smarter. “When you’ve got a company so dominant it can have its way with the tax code,” says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, “you have to build in safeguards.””