Remember a couple of years ago, when a bunch of us ridiculed the notion that Forbes named Washington State in the top five best states for business?
Some of their criteria was laughable, and their analysis moreso. We knew what most businesses knew: that on the most important points to businesses (business costs and quality of life), Washington State failed. And on other factors like "regulatory climate" and "outlook" we incredibly scored well: to the former, Washington scored highly because we employ people to help guide businesses through the regulatory morass; but that doesn't diminish the fact that there are massive regulatory roadblocks in the first place; to the latter, well, our "outlook" -- which includes ever-increasing spending, even in the face of a recession -- is the reason why we're facing significant tax increases, if Gregoire and the Democrats get their way.
So, now, Boeing is leaving. Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-39) probably has the best answer as to why, in a press release yesterday:
It's extremely disappointing that Boeing has chosen South Carolina over Washington, but not surprising at all. Boeing has been very critical of our state's difficult regulatory atmosphere. At the end of the day, it has to be able to compete successfully on an international scale, especially against Airbus. Instead of providing a level playing field, Washington has consistently put up barriers that make it difficult not only for Boeing to compete, but also for other employers throughout our state.
It's been no secret that other states have been courting Boeing for years. Boeing has tried to make it work here. However, it has gotten to a point with unemployment insurance issues, regulatory burdens, business and occupation taxes, and recently, the governor being willing to consider tax increases, that Washington is no longer a place where Boeing can be competitive.
In South Carolina, it took only days for Boeing to get the permits it needs to move forward with the second 787 plant. In Washington, it would take years. That's one of many examples in which our state has not been helpful and has stood in the way of the ability for Boeing to successfully compete here.
When Boeing decided several years ago to move its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago, many of my House Republican colleagues and I warned that unless the Legislature was willing to make reforms to improve the state's business climate, we may see further departures. The governor and the majority party have been in denial about concerns of job providers and now our predictions are unfortunately coming true.
We must also remember this is not just about Boeing. Many other employers rely on Boeing and its workforce to support their companies. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Washington are indirectly related to Boeing and are affected. I've been very critical not only about how our state has treated Boeing, but all employers in Washington. Even when the Legislature made concessions to Boeing in 2003 to secure the Dreamliner in our state, I also said we should extend those tax relief benefits to all businesses. Unfortunately, very little has been done in the Legislature to make Washington attractive for business.
Today's announcement needs to be a wake-up call to our political leaders in Washington to create a more competitive business climate before we lose more employers to other states.
Rep. Mike Hope weighed in, too:
To call today's announcement by Boeing disappointing is a gross understatement. Governor Gregoire and the majority party in the Legislature ignored the warning signs, and the price of Washington's terrible business climate will be the loss of thousands of family jobs. At a time when unemployment is over 9 percent, this is a painful blow for Snohomish County and the entire state.
When Boeing's decision was on the line, the governor of South Carolina wasted no time in calling a special legislative session to adopt a package of upfront grants and tax breaks. I have to ask our governor, 'Why were you sitting on the sidelines? Why aren't we in session to demonstrate an equally strong commitment to keeping the aerospace industry vibrant and growing in Washington?
Governor Gregoire claims that this was a negotiation between the Union and Boeing. I strongly disagree. This was a negotiation between Boeing, the State of South Carolina, and the State of Washington -- and we lost. We lost because the business climate in our state needs immediate and dramatic improvement.
Consistently, my Republican colleagues and I have fought to address the most serious obstacles to making our state more competitive, starting with our enormously expensive workers' compensation system. But our efforts were ignored, and proposals to help employers and to create a more competitive business climate were rejected.
The governor said she thinks the company 'made the wrong decision.' On that point we agree, but she has also failed to be the leader we needed at one of the most critical times in our state's history.
Cross-posted on <pudge/*>.