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Inslee not giving up on transportation package

Rachel La Corte and Mike Baker, Associated Press

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee stands in front of a bust of George Washington in the Capitol rotunda as he speaks to reporters on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Olympia, Wash. Inslee discussed the status of the current special legislative session, as well as his continued hopes for a transportation revenue package. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- As lawmakers moved swiftly toward approving tax incentives for Boeing, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday he hasn't given up on also moving forward with a $10 billion transportation package.

There have been productive meetings between Republican and Democratic transportation leaders, Inslee said, though he acknowledged that a deal might not come together within the week timeframe he had asked for when he first called a special session.

He said another meeting on the transportation plan is set for Saturday, the same day the House and Senate are expected to vote on a package of aerospace incentives.

"I'm very encouraged at the rate of progress of these discussions," the Democratic governor said. "When that may be fulfilled, we don't know the answer to that yet, but I do believe it's important we remain focused."

Senate leaders, however, expressed skepticism over how Inslee was approaching the $10 billion transportation revenue package. Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said he believes Inslee is just trying to apply pressure to expedite the measures, but "we've taken the position that the most important thing is to get it right and get it right for the entire state of Washington."

"To put that on an artificial timeline doesn't get it right for the entire state," Schoesler said.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, a Democrat from Medina who leads the predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus, also said that the transportation package was never tied to the overall aerospace package. He said that in a conference call Senate leadership had on Tuesday with both the union and Boeing, both were "very clear" that the two-step process only included the union vote and the legislative approval of tax incentives, permit streamlining, and work force development.

Boeing did say in a letter to the governor on Wednesday that "transportation infrastructure improvements" would ensure the company's lasting competiveness in the state. However, the letter didn't ask that the transportation package be passed immediately, and Boeing hasn't publicly commented.

On Friday, House lawmakers moved forward with a plan that would extend tax breaks for Boeing Co. if key manufacturing work on its new 777X remains in Washington state. The extended tax breaks are valued at about $9 billion, according to state estimates.

Inslee has pushed that package along with other measures as part of a set of policies to keep Chicago-based Boeing as a major part of Washington's economy.

While lawmakers were moving ahead with efforts to satisfy the aerospace company, its proposed contract with the Machinists union appeared to be falling apart. The Seattle Times reported that a union meeting Thursday night was dominated by discussion opposing the contract and that District 751 President Tom Wroblewski ripped a copy of the proposal, vowing to try and have it withdrawn.

Asked about the union's backlash, Inslee encouraged the machinists to consider the broader benefit of having decades of job security and economic activity with Boeing's promise of keeping the 777X in the Puget Sound.

"People all around the world are envious and want to poach these jobs from the state of Washington," Inslee said. "There are 49 governors that would be calling Boeing if in fact this deal does not go through this week."