A special session of the Missouri legislature will get underway this evening with the hopes of bringing thousands of new jobs to the state.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon will ask the GOP-controlled House and Senate to approve up to $150 million in annual tax breaks and economic incentives to lure Boeing into building its new 777X passenger plane in Missouri.
"Building this next-generation commercial aircraft in Missouri would create thousands of jobs across our state and secure our position as a hub for advanced aerospace manufacturing – and that's why I am committed to competing for and winning this project," Nixon said in a press release.
Like Nixon, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said landing the commercial aircraft plant is a huge opportunity.
“We’re talking about thousands of new jobs,” Jones said. “We’re talking about high paying jobs and we’re talking about jobs that would last for a long period of time that would have ancillary positive effects because Boeing of course has hundreds of suppliers and vendors in all the states in which it does business.”
Boeing wants proposals from states submitted by Dec. 10, and Jones said that doesn’t leave a lot of time for politics.
“Really it’s the only thing we have the time to focus on,” Jones said. “Given that we’re going to have nine calendar days from the beginning of the special session on Monday in order to consider what we need to do for this proposal.”
With Boeing asking several other states for proposals, however, Jones noted that Missouri will face stiff competition. He’s also eager to see the details of Nixon’s plan, a sentiment shared by some of his Republican colleagues.
“The Republican-led legislature continues our commitment to providing growth and opportunity for Missouri through creating new jobs in our state that enable families to put food on the table,” Speaker Pro Tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said in a press release. “I am cautious but optimistic for details from the governor—since he is the only one who has been in deep discussions with Boeing—on how he expects the legislature to help Missouri land the multi-billion dollar, thousands-of-jobs deal.”
Rather than create a new program, Nixon said he would deliver Boeing a package of economic incentives by expanding four existing programs, Missouri Works, Missouri Works Training, Missouri BUILD and the Real Property Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act.
Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, said the opportunity is exciting, but he doesn’t want to add to the total dollar amount of tax credits offered by the state. With that in mind, he said expanding existing tax credits and other programs with the hope of bringing Boeing’s 777X to Missouri could mean cuts to other incentives that encourage restoring historic buildings and constructing low-income housing.
“There’s a lot of work to be done just coming up to speed to understand what the governor’s proposing,” Lamping said.
Tax credits have had a mixed fate in Jefferson City. In 2010 lawmakers approved a plan that helped expand the Ford Plant in Kansas City. But in 2011 incentives geared toward turning Lambert Airport in St. Louis into a cargo hub stalled amid disagreements between House and Senate Republicans.
Boeing had planned to build the 777X in Washington state, but its machinist union rejected a new long-term contract proposal and the company began considering new homes for its production line.
Boeing currently employs roughly 15,000 workers in Missouri, and the company hopes to announce where it will build the 777X early next year.
Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd