State officials work to reach agreement on jobs bill

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday invited legislative leaders to meet with his administration as he and lawmakers work toward agreement on economic development that could lead to a possible special legislative session.

State lawmakers adjourned in May without passing a bill that included proposed tax breaks to transform the St. Louis airport into an international cargo hub, incentives for science and technology companies and state aid to lure amateur sporting events. The proposal also called for overhauling some of Missouri’s existing programs, such as curtailing tax credits for building low-income houses and renovating historic buildings while eliminating a tax break for low-income renters.

Nixon has said there would need to be broad consensus for a specific economic development plan before he would call a special legislative session and order lawmakers to return to the state Capitol. Scott Holste, a spokesman for Nixon, said discussions involving business and legislative leaders have started to produce some preliminary consensus and that a meeting between lawmakers and the governor’s administration was an important step in the process.

In a written statement, Nixon said one of his priorities is to help Missouri businesses compete and that he has been looking at ways to improve the state’s economic development tools and to pay for sharpening those tools.

“We are now ready to take the next step by inviting legislative leaders to join senior members of my team for a high-level meeting about how to move this process forward,” Nixon said. “We must continue to analyze both the additional tools that are necessary to create jobs, and the changes to existing tax credit programs needed to pay for those new tools.”

The governor has proposed meeting next week to come up with a strategy for developing and passing legislation that would create jobs and make the state more competitive. The discussion would include lawmakers, the director of the Department of Economic Development and Nixon’s chief of staff and budget director.

State lawmakers also have been working on economic development issues in the months since the Legislature adjourned. Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said lawmakers have been trying to narrow the differences between the House and Senate over an economic development proposal.

In addition, about a dozen St. Louis-area House Democrats met this week with local officials, supporters and critics of a proposal to make St. Louis a hub for trade with China.

Nixon said Thursday that state officials also must begin to determine the best way to pay for the costs of a series of natural disasters that have struck Missouri in recent months. Missouri has pledged $150 million to pay for the response to the disasters.

About of farmland and rural homes were flooded in May after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew up a Mississippi River levee to relieve flooding pressure on the nearby town of Cairo, Ill. A May 22 tornado that killed 156 people in the southwestern Missouri city of Joplin destroyed about 8,000 homes and businesses. And recent flooding along the Missouri River has inundated large sections of northwestern Missouri and could eventually spread to other areas, including Kansas City.

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