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Lawmaker wants to use Boeing tax break to save the salmon

A salmon swimming north of Shelton. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington state hasn’t been able to find a reliable source of funding to clear passageways for spawning salmon, according to Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima. Until now, that is.

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Sen. King, on the Senate Transportation Committee, is proposing that the $196 million expected from Boeing next year as outlined in the aerospace tax incentive reform bill be put towards improving fish passages, thus easing the burden on road and highway projects.

Fixing fish passageways by 2030 is required by the federal government. Fixing generally means removing state-owned culverts that block salmon and steelhead habitats.

King’s idea would prioritize fish passages that open the most amount of habitat. The Washington State Department of Transportation has a table of the fish passage projects that could be funded by King’s plan.

King says the result could increase salmon populations, which would benefit the orca population. More salmon could also benefit tribal members and recreational and commercial fishing.

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The $196 million proposed in the plan could be cut short if Boeing and the World Trade Organization settle an international trade dispute, avoiding retaliatory tariffs and lifting the suspension on tax breaks.

The state tax breaks have saved Boeing millions of dollars per year, approximately $230 million in 2018, as reported by The Seattle Times. The business and occupation (B&O) tax rate, the rate involved in Wednesday’s bills, accounts for a 40 percent reduction.

Even if the aerospace funding ends, Senator King said the obligation to fish passages does not. It would require another additional funding source.

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Senator Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood) is co-sponsoring Senator King’s fish passage plan. He is not endorsing the idea, but says he welcomes ideas and will be discussing it more with Sen. King. Senator Liias is, however, co-sponsoring SB 6690, which is concerning aerospace business and occupation taxes.
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