The Washington State Senate budget adopted last Friday killed funding for the Office of Aerospace, which was created less than a year ago.
The move was driven by the need to find more than $1bn to fund education and the State’s long-running budget shortfalls, brought on by the 2008 global fiscal crisis.
It’s understandable that the Senate, which is controlled by fiscally conservative Republicans and what we call here “Roadkill Democrats” (they’d be called Blue Dog Democrats in Congress), want to make drastic budget changes. The State, which has been controlled by Democrats in the Governor’s Mansion and in both houses of the Legislature, went on a spending binge following the election of Christine Gregoire and Democratic Super Majorities in 2004. The Ds increased spending by 33% on projected 16% increases in revenues. It was wholly irresponsible then and was perpetuated until the fiscal crisis began.
When the current Legislature was being formed, two Roadkill Democrats left their caucus and joined the Republicans in the Senate to form the first GOP control of the Senate since…well, we can’t recall specifically but it may have been around 1996, when we first moved here.
We won’t get into the social cuts of the Republican budget, because that’s not the area we cover in this blog. The move cutting the Office of Aerospace is a big mistake.
The amount isn’t that great: a low-six figure salary, plus operating expenses. But this is besides the point. Washington State competes with the South’s new, growing aerospace clusters in Charleston, SC, where Boeing is building up its operations; in North Carolina, where there are major suppliers; and in Alabama, where Airbus only today broke ground for its A320ceo/neo production plant.
Alabama’s neighboring states of Florida and Mississippi are supporting the Airbus cluster with major efforts to attract suppliers.
Each of these states, plus Texas, have aerospace offices with missions to attract aerospace development. Washington State for years was complacent with the Boeing presence. It woke up, briefly, in 2003 when Boeing began shopping around for an assembly site for the forthcoming 7E7. The State approved tax incentives over 20 years worth $2.3bn, and won the assembly site. An Office of Aerospace was supposed to be created then, but then-Gov. Gary Locke and his successor, Gov. Gregoire, did nothing until the latter finally created the office last summer.
Washington State had been downright derelict in promoting and protecting aerospace here. For several years, Gregoire didn’t even go to the Paris or Farnborough air shows and the state Department of Commerce’s budget was so small that its booths at the show were embarrassingly small.
Meanwhile, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida combined to host not only a large display at the shows, in Paris they hosted parties at high profile locations like the Eiffel Tower. One can argue whether the expense was worth it, but nobody could miss the symbolism, including The Seattle Times which wrote an embarrassing story about Washington’s embarrassing presence at the Paris Air Show one year.
The Department of Commerce is being gutted by budget cuts. Now the Office of Aerospace is in danger of disappearing. The House budget has yet to be voted upon. The Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance is urging its members to contact Legislators to reverse the Senate’s decision.
Gov. Jay Inslee wants to be sure Boeing assembles the 777X here. Cutting the Office of Aerospace (and gutting Commerce’s aerospace budget) sends exactly the wrong signal. Inslee needs to step in and make sure aerospace doesn’t get gutted.