Pratt-Whitney win for F-35 engines could add 500 Maine jobs

Posted Feb. 17, 2011, at 11:23 a.m.

NORTH BERWICK, Maine — Pratt and Whitney comes up the big winner after members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block funding for a second, alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, along with another Democratic and two Republican congressmen, sponsored the amendment to a major spending bill that would end funding for the second engine.

The main engine for the plane is currently built in part at Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, but General Electric and Rolls-Royce have fought to fund another engine for the plane.

Pingree says funding the engine for the rest of this year would cost more than $400 million and altogether would cost taxpayers nearly $3 billion.

Pingree has been fighting to end the funding since coming to Congress. Last year an amendment to a spending bill sponsored by Pingree won wide spread bipartisan support, but fell short of passing Congress.

“It’s a good day for workers at Pratt and Whitney in Maine,” she said.

The vote could mean up to 500 new jobs at the Pratt and Whitney plant in North Berwick, Pingree said. The plant employs residents of both Maine and New Hampshire.

“It’s big for both those regions,” she said.

Pingree credited the success of getting the amendment passed this time to working hard to cross the aisle and work with her Republican colleagues and the aid of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The money for the engine was included in a $1.2 trillion spending bill that would make deep cuts while wrapping up the unfinished business lawmakers inherited after last year’s collapse of the budget process. That includes $1.03 trillion for agency operating budgets that need annual approval by Congress and $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current engine is built by world-class workers around the country, including right here in Maine, said Pingree.

If the second engine were to be funded at least 40 percent of it would be built in the UK, eliminating jobs in the United States, Pingree said.

While it is possible the proposal for funding for the second engine may make a new appearance in the future, Pingree said it will have difficulty gaining traction following Wednesday’s vote.

“This is a big stake in the heart,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright (c) 2011, Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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