How Changes To Role Of Export-Import Bank Could Affect Wash. State Businesses

Jun 25, 2014

Washington state businesses are following with growing anxiety a debate in the other Washington over the future of the Export-Import Bank. Today, members of a Congressional committee are holding a hearing on whether the obscure federal agency amounts to corporate welfare.

Washington state is the largest beneficiary of the Export-Import Bank and there’s one big reason: Boeing.

“Who’s going to make a loan for Angola to buy a $300 million airplane? No commercial bank,” said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash.

Heck is introducing legislation to extend authorization of the Export-Import Bank for seven years. The authorization is currently set to expire at the end of September.

The bank provides financing to enable foreign buyers to purchase U.S. goods – not just airplanes, but also wine, agricultural products and even music stands made in Yakima. Heck says if the bank disappears, tens of thousands of jobs are at risk.

“If we allow the Export-Import Bank of the United States of America to expire, we will be the only developed nation on the face of the planet without one, and we’ll put American manufacturing at a prohibitive competitive disadvantage,” Heck said.

But new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy feels differently.

“I think Ex-Im Bank is one that’s something the government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it,” said McCarthy, R-Calif., on “Fox News Sunday.”

McCarthy’s rise in Congress has increased fears that Tea Party Republicans will allow the bank to die. Supporters of the bank say it’s not a drain on the U.S. budget; it actually earns money for taxpayers.

Many in Washington state are paying attention, including The Lighthouse for the Blind, which has 110 blind and Deaf-Blind workers who make parts for Boeing airplanes. Kirk Adams, president of the nonprofit, says if the Export-Import Bank disappears, that could hurt Boeing’s production rate and, consequently, his workers.

“That would directly relate to job loss for the people we employ,” Adams said.

Adams recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with members of the Association of Washington Business, including Boeing, to lobby for the bank’s reauthorization. He says the message they received was: there’s a tough fight ahead.