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Our Opinion: Special session yields attractive proposal

We support legislative passage of an incentive package to attract Boeing Co. to build its new aircraft in Missouri.

Our support is not without reservations, articulated by state Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia. He said: “Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you should get to pay a lower tax rate than the hard-working small business owner.”

We agree with the concept, but as a practical matter, this prize – production of the 777X jetliner – is beyond big; it is enormous.

Missouri proposal is similarly enormous; it amounts to $1.7 billion in incentives over more than two decades.

And it may not be the best offer among states submitting proposals. More than a dozen states are gathering at Boeing’s table, hoping to be served the entire product or, at least, a wing.

Production of the jetliner is estimated to create 8,000 jobs; producing only the aircraft’s wings is expected to create 2,000 jobs.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, linked his support to the potential for jobs. In addition, the prospect of jobs prompted St. Louis-area construction unions to agree to working around the clock without overtime pay.

The proposal also is about education. In connection with the proposal, Gov. Jay Nixon announced an agreement among community colleges to provide specialized training.

Also, Nixon’s administration contends Missouri will gain more in economic development than it gives in tax incentives. It also points out the incentives will be released only as jobs are created.

Finally, the proposal was crafted in an open, special legislative session called by the governor. The process allowed our elected representatives to debate, discuss and vote on the proposal. Missouri’s procedure marked a departure from some states that designed their proposals administratively.

When the regular session resumes in January, we urge lawmakers to resume discussions of the unresolved effort for comprehensive reform of Missouri’s tax credits and incentives. That discussion inevitably will include competition posed by other states, including what has been referred to as the Missouri-Kansas “border war.”

With regard to the Boeing project, remember Missouri is one of many suitors, and its offer has not been accepted.

This special prize, however, deserved a special session and lawmakers have crafted an attractive proposal.

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