What a week we had in Jefferson City. We were scheduled to meet Monday to talk about our priorities for next session. Before we even got our clothes packed for the trip, the governor announced a special session to address legislation to provide an incentive package for Boeing. I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical until I got the details of the offer. It seems that Boeing has the distinction of being the only U.S. company that can build a commercial airliner.
The new generation of airliners are to be called the 777X and they already have orders for $100 billion worth. Negotiations with the unions in Seattle turned out to be pointless, so two weeks ago, Boeing sent bid offers to 12 states. Missouri was chosen to be one of the 12 due to having a Boeing facility in St. Louis and very good working relations with the machinists' union there. The proposal the governor placed in our hands was that we extend the caps on current tax credit programs so that Boeing could take advantage of the same programs that we are currently offering to Missouri businesses, both large and small. It is important here to understand the difference between a tax cut and a tax credit.
The way the tax credit works is that Boeing must first hire and put to work 2,000 employees. Then the portion of withholding tax paid by Boeing will be returned to them to help pay for the new facility. Missouri taxpayers are on the hook for nothing. I like that concept. The only way Boeing receives anything is if they build a multi-million dollar manufacturing facility, hire a bunch of Missouri workers, (at $75,000 to $90,000 a year) and only then do they get tax relief. This same incentive has been in place for 20 years or more and all we're doing is allowing Boeing to use it.
The plan calls for them to begin manufacturing the plane by 2017 and hire a total of 8000 workers. I asked myself why there were very few objections forthcoming and it was quickly pointed out that 40 percent of Missouri's total tax dollars come from the St. Louis metro area and whatever was good for them was good for us. We did a little research and found out that we have 11 local vendors for Boeing now and that number will definitely grow with the new plant. The bill was initiated in the Senate who passed it out in historically quick fashion and we debated less than three hours in the House before passing it with a huge bi-partisan vote of 127 to 20. We were told that the number of states being considered is now down to four and we have a strong position. We should know within a week or so if we are to be chosen.
The speaker announced his agenda for the new session. He wants to focus on four categories.
1. Growth and opportunity, which includes tax reform, tort reform, labor reform, and transportation funding.
2. Guarantee access to a great education, which includes funding increases for K-12 and higher ed, Common Core issues, open enrollment, help to community colleges, and help to vocational centers.
3. Guarding and protecting Missouri values, including right to farm, pro life issues, Second Amendment issues, privacy issues, and election laws.
4. Guaranteeing abundant and affordable energy, which deals with EPA issues, new vs. renewable energy, regulatory reforms, and consumer protections. One thing's for sure, if we address all those issues we certainly won't have time to go to the pool hall!
We held our annual committee meeting Wednesday afternoon and the members approved our yearly report. It will be available on line for anyone that has an interest in reading it. Our emphasis next year will be on finding solutions to the problems we have identified. I'll be calling on many of you for advice!
We are really getting a wake up call from Mother Nature. It's 9 degrees at my house as I'm writing this and I'm pretty sure the fear of global warming is unfounded here! I do have to admit that the snow is really beautiful and it does get you in a Christmas frame of mind. With the snow and ice accumulations, the parades were all canceled and there will be five of them on Saturday, Dec. 14. The old red truck is fast, but not that fast! More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.