Missouri Senate passes Boeing tax-incentives bill for 777X production

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KTVI-TV)– The Missouri Senate advanced an economic development plan to attract a Boeing 777X jetliner production plant to St. Louis on Wednesday.

Supporters won a super majority with a 23-8 vote and suspended the rules to give final approval to the incentives.  The bill now goes to the Missouri House of Representatives.

The sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, praised the bipartisan effort.  “I`m proud of the work; I think we were deliberative, and I think we worked together.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called lawmakers back to Jefferson City on Monday to create an incentive program to help bring the Boeing business to the state.  He limited discussion to four existing economic development programs that have enjoyed some success.

Nixon also put a $150 million-a-year cap on the tax benefits -- which would amount to $1.7 billion over 20 years.

The Washington Legislature approved incentives for Boeing that would amount to $8.7 billion.

Missouri senators added several amendments to insure Boeing reports its efforts to attract minority and women workers and to be sure the business produces more than a 1-to-1 return on investment.  “That is part of the reason why you saw a lot of consensus here.  People were comfortable with those protections,” explained Schmitt after the bill won approval on the Senate floor.

Critics had warned the incentives might drain too much from the state resources.  Schmitt disagreed.  “In my view this is a way of adding more taxpayers to the rolls; they decide how to spend their money, and it is good for everybody,” he said.

The House Economic Development Committee will take up the measure Thursday at noon.  Committee Chairwoman State Rep. Anne Zerr said the entire House could begin debating the bill as soon as Friday morning depending on when the House Speaker called everyone back to work.

The state has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to complete its proposal and application for the Boeing plant.  If House members amend the Senate bill it will have to go back to the Senate for another vote.

Zerr pointed out labor has built a good working relationship with Boeing in St. Louis.  In 2010 members of the Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers approved the elimination of a defined-benefit pension for new hires at the St. Louis Boeing plant starting in 2012.  That was one contract provision the Seattle-based Boeing union members turned down, thereby opening up competition for a new facility to other states.

Zerr described the proposed subsidy as "good for the region and good for the state."

“Labor knows if a business is successful they will have a job,” she added.

On Tuesday, three construction unions promised to have their members work 24 hours a day to build a factory, without any built-in overtime costs.