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Missouri Senate leader backs Boeing incentives

By DAVID A. LIEB

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A top state senator said Friday that he would support special tax incentives to try to entice the Boeing Co. to produce a new airplane in Missouri.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard said it should be "a no-brainer" for lawmakers to authorize incentives for Boeing as Missouri competes with several other states to produce the Boeing 777X commercial airplane.

"The massive amount of jobs and infrastructure improvement is going to require something that is above and beyond what the normal incentive is," said Richard, R-Joplin.

Gov. Jay Nixon discussed the potential Boeing project with legislative leaders during a telephone call Thursday, shortly before meeting with Boeing executives. The governor issued a statement later Thursday describing it as "an extremely productive meeting" and pledging to work quickly and aggressively to submit a proposal to Boeing.

Nixon said Boeing is expected to choose a production location by January.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said the governor has not yet outlined a specific incentive package and has not said whether a special session would be needed. Lawmakers are to convene their annual regular session Jan. 8.

"It would be a tremendous project for Missouri to land," said Dempsey, R-St. Charles. "As we've seen with projects of this scale, it reverberates the positive benefits throughout the entire state."

Boeing already employs about 15,000 people in Missouri.

"Anytime you have the opportunity to significantly expand the operations of a company like that, you need to look at that seriously," said House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country.

Legislators in recent years have twice approved high-dollar incentive packages with specific industries in mind.

In 2008, legislators authorized $240 million of tax credits for Bombardier Aerospace to build a new series of passenger jets near Kansas City International Airport. But Bombardier instead chose to manufacture the planes in Mirabel, Canada, just north of its Montreal headquarters.

Missouri fared better in 2010, when Nixon called lawmakers into a special session to consider incentives for Ford Motor Co. to continue manufacturing vehicles at a Kansas City area facility. Legislators approved a measure authorizing up to $150 million of incentives for the automotive industry over a decade. The legislation has been used by both Ford and General Motors Co. to expand automobile production in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.

Richard said Missouri may need to offer Boeing a substantial enticement that goes beyond existing business incentive programs.

"I would expect it would be a massive amount, probably even more than what we did for Ford," he said.

If that requires a special session, Richard said he's willing to push for the legislation.

"I believe this is something that's extraordinary," he said.


Follow David A. Lieb at: http://www.twitter.com/DavidALieb

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