Missouri gets the job done, but is Boeing serious?

12/07/2013 5:47 PM

12/07/2013 5:47 PM

Well, that was efficient.

In just one week, the Missouri General Assembly managed to pass an economic development bill — a feat that often eludes the legislature during its regular sessions.

That Boeing shopping expedition seemed to bring out the legislature’s competitive streak.

The measure that the Senate passed earlier and the House overwhelmingly agreed to on Friday would provide about $1.7 billion over 23 years if Boeing would expand its facility near Lambert International Airport in St. Louis and move production of its 777X passenger jet here.

That’s only a fraction of the $9 billion worth of incentives the state of Washington has held out in a desperate effort to get Boeing to keep its facility there. But the machinists union in Puget Sound wouldn’t agree to the concessions demanded by the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer.

Kansas City unions so far appear somewhat more eager to please. Construction workers have pledged to work around the clock, without overtime, to build a facility in record time.

St. Louis has some of the ingredients mentioned in a company document obtained by the

St. Louis Post Dispatch

. Boeing wants a 9,000-foot runway to launch the planes. Check. It needs easy access to a major highway and rail lines for parts deliveries. Check. It wants “significant” tax breaks. Big check.

But St. Louis does not have, and never will have, a seaport. And that’s a key item on Boeing’s “desired” list.

I still suspect Boeing’s overtures to Missouri, Kansas and other states are all about wringing more inducements from the state of Washington. But it was refreshing to see the legislature stay focused and get something done.

So does this herald a new era of cooperation in Jefferson City?

Not a chance.

If anything, the Boeing saga has the potential to ramp up pressure from Republicans to make Missouri a “right to work” state, meaning workers would not have to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Some lawmakers have suggested the state would be more appealing to the airline maker if its unions were neutered.

Few things say “gridlock” like a full-out war over unions. But that might be an unfortunate byproduct of this week’s special session.

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