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Nixon: Session crucial to provide 'the tools' needed to save auto jobs

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2010 - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon literally sped out of a downtown news conference today to rush back to Jefferson City to meet with legislative leaders on the opening day of the special session.

Nixon quipped that since he called the special session, "I need to be there."

The governor has asked the Legislature to reconsider two proposals that died during the closing hours of the regular session that ended May 14.

The key measure would authorize up to $15 million a year in state tax breaks to encourage Ford Motor Co. to maintain and expand its auto-making plant near Kansas City.

"We want to build the vehicles of the future in the state of Missouri,'' said Nixon today, noting the thousands of auto-making jobs at stake and the efforts of other states to persuade Ford to move.

But the fate of that bill apparently rests on another measure, also specified for the special session, that would revamp pensions for new state employees. Among other things, they would have to contribute a portion of their pay into the program -- state workers now make no contribution -- and they would have to work longer to get benefits.

Nixon didn't mention the pension bill during his brief remarks to reporters today in St. Louis, but some of the more controversial portions of the pension bill are believed to be why the governor felt that it was important for him to meet personally with legislators this afternoon.

"I need to have the tools that the Legislature can provide," the governor said.

Nixon was in St. Louis for a joint news conference downtown, with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and business leaders, to announce that Unisys, an information technology firm, is locating a new application-modernization center in St. Louis. Business officials said the center will primarily deal with federal clients, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and will create up to 300 new jobs.

Unisys was attracted to St. Louis, in part, by $4.5 million in state tax credits under its Missouri Quality Jobs program. Nixon said the new jobs, and payroll taxes, generated by Unisys' new center will more than pay for the tax breaks.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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