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Mid-Missouri senators split 2-1 in favor of Boeing package

Mid-Missouri senators split 2-1 in favor of Boeing package

December 5th, 2013 in News

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer voted no.

Schaefer, R-Columbia, was one of eight senators - all Republicans - voting Wednesday afternoon against the special session bill creating incentives to encourage the Boeing Co. to build its planned 777X commercial jet in Missouri.

"I think it was a lost opportunity to use this Boeing proposal for some leverage to actually get tax relief for all Missourians - millions of hard-working Missourians who pay taxes to pay the freight on these special projects," Schaefer explained after the Senate passed the proposal on a 23-8 vote. "We acknowledge that we do not have a healthy economic climate in this state that attracts business, unless we take some extraordinary step in abating taxes.

"And yet, what many of us have been saying now, for the last year or longer, is that we want everyone in the state of Missouri - individuals, small businesses as well as large businesses - to have that same opportunity."

Sens. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City - the other two senators whose districts include Mid-Missouri counties - voted for the measure giving Boeing up to $1.5 million a year in tax incentives - if they create new jobs.

Kehoe said: "I think it's a great opportunity for the state to go out and do what we've been talking about for the last several years - which is to create an environment where companies can bring jobs to the state."

Like Schaefer, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, likes the idea of reducing taxes for all Missourians - and already has introduced some bills for the 2014 legislative session to make those changes.

But Schmitt also sponsored the Boeing incentives bill in the Senate.

"By allowing them to keep some withholding taxes or taxes they would normally pay to Jefferson City on jobs - quite frankly, that we don't have right now - is something that, I think, at the end of the day will create a lot of economic activity in our state," Schmitt told reporters after Wednesday's vote. "I was talking to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal - and the outside view of this is that Missouri is being very aggressive and taking bold action.

"I would also point out the taxpayer protections that are in this that require a greater than one-to-one return" before any tax credits are issued.

Schaefer said the question remains "why one company should get almost $2 billion in tax relief (over more than two decades) when hard-working men and women in the state of Missouri can't even get a dollar of tax relief."

He would have preferred a chance to debate overall tax reform, including changing the state's tax credits system.

"I believe that, if we give broad-based tax support, what we will get is a lot of investment across the board," Schaefer explained. "And, as opposed to just one corner of Missouri as this project does, we get it in all corners of the state of Missouri."

State Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, also voted against the Boeing bill.

"This public policy is not healthy for the long-term economic policy of Missouri," Lager told colleagues before their vote. "What I believe fundamentally (and) philosophically - I believe that broad-based tax relief will do more" for the state's economy than a law targeting one special company or industry."

Schmitt couldn't say if the Boeing bill would be needed, even if Missouri had the tax reforms a number of lawmakers say they want.

But Kehoe said: "Look at Kansas - they have an incredible, friendly environment (and) an incredible tax policy as compared to Missouri. ... But yet, they're putting together a special package for the Boeing bid, too.

"So, even when you have some of the greatest environments, you still have to go above and beyond what that environment has - to attract an opportunity like this."