Mid-Missouri lawmakers back Boeing incentives proposal

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City (seated, center), reads and other lawmakers listen or talk during the opening of the special session on Monday. A Senate committee holds a public hearing tonight on the bill providing up to $150 million a year in incentives to the Boeing Co. to build a new commercial jet in the St. Louis area.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City (seated, center), reads and other lawmakers listen or talk during the opening of the special session on Monday. A Senate committee holds a public hearing tonight on the bill providing up to $150 million a year in incentives to the Boeing Co. to build a new commercial jet in the St. Louis area. Photo by Bob Watson.

Several Mid-Missouri lawmakers think the General Assembly should discuss Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed $150 million economic incentives package for aerospace projects in the state, as bait to attract the Boeing Co. to build its 777X commercial jet in the St. Louis area.

“In general, what’s good for St. Louis’ economy is good for the rest of the state,” state Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said Monday afternoon.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, explained: “The governor’s proposal is to take four economic development programs that currently exist and, simply, to tailor them a little bit for this Boeing proposal.

“Essentially, the state doesn’t have to put any money on the table, and Boeing only gets the benefit of the deal if they do produce the jobs and there’s economic activity.”

State Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said: “The reality is, if we can get these jobs in, I think it helps the whole state.

“It increases revenues, helps us with infrastructure, education, everything we need.”

Although originally elected from Kansas City, the 2011 redistricting process moved Justus’ district to a six-county area in east-Central Missouri, including Callaway County.

She expects a number of her constituents will benefit from the Boeing project’s likely new jobs.

“If we get this thing passed, it will be worth the time and effort,” she said.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, agreed: “You’ve got to catch a lot of frogs before you find a prince.

“As anybody who’s been involved in business knows — I’ve been involved in plenty of opportunities that just didn’t work out the way I wanted them to — you just have to keep trying.”

Barnes isn’t sure how a new Boeing plant would affect other Missouri manufacturers.

“People keep referring to 700 Boeing suppliers existing in the state of Missouri,” Barnes said. “I haven’t seen the list.

“I’m confident those suppliers exist, but nobody’s provided an actual list.”

Kehoe said the “ripple effect” from a new aircraft-building plant could be “fantastic.”

“I believe Boeing’s statistics are that they have some type of either a vendor or a relationship with a vendor in over 100 of the 115 counties in Missouri,” he said.

Barnes said that, with few known details going into the session, he plans to listen carefully.

“I support the idea of broad-based tax relief for small business owners, entrepreneurs and everyday Missourians,” Barnes said.

“This doesn’t fit that bill.

“So, it’s a difficult issue (and) a difficult question.”

Schaefer said: “As the governor presented it to us, it’s a two-to-one return on the tax incentives that are offered.

“Those tax incentives are not available until the jobs are first created and there’s a withholding.”

Missouri government would lose revenue by allowing Boeing to keep some of the withholding taxes it normally would pay for each of the employees.

“But, if we don’t have those jobs, we’re not going to get that money, anyway,” Schaefer said.

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