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Government, Politics & Issues

County Council considers bill that could save Pfizer from paying back tax breaks

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 10, 2010 - The St. Louis County Council got its first look Tuesday at a bill that would allow Monsanto Co. to take over the deal -- tax breaks and job-creating mandates -- that had been given Pfizer Inc. in 2007 to help pay for the construction of a $50 million research building on its Chesterfield campus.

The bill's sponsor, Councilman Greg Quinn, said the measure -- if approved by the council -- would save Pfizer from having to pay back millions of dollars in tax breaks to the county, since the company will not be able to comply with the chief requirement that it maintain at least 1,000 jobs in the county.

Pfizer now is in process of shedding 600 local jobs, many of them in research, and is selling the Chesterfield campus to Monsanto Co., the surviving portion (plant sciences) of a now-defunct larger Monsanto Co. that had been the original owner and developer of the Chesterfield site in the 1980s.

(The original Monsanto was split up into parts about a decade ago. Pfizer now owns the medical research portion of the old Monsanto, while another part -- the chemical division -- was spun off as Solutia.)

Under the bill's provisions, the 1,000-job mandate would fall to the current Monsanto, which already employs several thousand workers locally. Quinn said Tuesday that it was his understanding that Monsanto would need to hire 1,000 more people to keep the tax breaks and not be liable for the penalties that Pfizer now faces if the takeover fails to take place.

"Monsanto is going to bring new jobs to these facilities," said Quinn, adding that job-creation was the council's key concern -- and not who created them.

The first vote on the bill is slated for next Tuesday's council meeting.

Quinn said he was approached within the past month by Pfizer representatives proposing the bill that would allow Monsanto to take over the tax breaks and mandates relating to the Chesterfield facility. According to accompanying documents, Monsanto officials will have to agree to the change.

The terms of the new agreement, Quinn said, will impose penalties -- to be paid by Monsanto -- if the job-creation target isn't met and maintained.

(Full disclosure: a relative of the reporter formerly worked for Pfizer and the old Monsanto.)

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