Government & Politics

GM won’t agree to keep 90% of jobs for plant expansion, Missouri Senate leader says

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General Motors simultaneously unveiled its new Cadillac XT4 compact SUV in New York City and at the Fairfax Assembly Plant where it drew praise from Kansas Gov. Jeff Coyler.
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General Motors simultaneously unveiled its new Cadillac XT4 compact SUV in New York City and at the Fairfax Assembly Plant where it drew praise from Kansas Gov. Jeff Coyler.

A conservative faction of Missouri Senate Republicans filibustered overnight into Tuesday morning, demanding that a bill granting General Motors $50 million in tax credits to expand its St. Charles County plant be stripped of other workforce and economic development programs championed by Gov. Mike Parson and Senate leadership.

Senate President Pro-Tem Dave Schatz, R-Franklin, said he planned to stick with the leadership-backed bill, despite the Senate Conservative Caucus filibuster, which continued past 5 a.m. Tuesday. If the filibuster ended, Schatz said, leadership planned to take up the bill without any changes.

He would not take up a bill the caucus has called a compromise because of a provision that requires GM to retain 90 percent of the jobs at the Wentzville site.

“Unfortunately, that bill is unacceptable,” Schatz, R-Franklin, said. “The folks from GM have made it very clear that there is some poison pills in there so that (Senate Bill) 184 in its current fashion and state is unacceptable.”

He then said the “poison pill” was the provision to retain 90 percent of the jobs at the plant.

When asked about the job retention provision, Jason Wetzel, GM regional manager for public policy, referred The Star to its corporate public relations office.

“We do not have a comment on provisions of the legislation as it moves through the process,” Jeannine Ginivan, GM public policy communications manager, said in a statement. “GM is part of a broad coalition of business and local communities that support the Governor’s efforts to encourage investment and economic growth in Missouri.”

On Monday, a group of GM representatives, including Wetzel, were seen in the Missouri Senate corridors, meeting and talking with lawmakers. Throughout the filibuster, they roosted in Schatz’s office.

GM has said Missouri is its “preferred location” for investing $1 billion to upgrade and retool the Wentzville plant, according to Rob Dixon, the Missouri department of economic development director. In a statement Tuesday, Ginivan said, “No decision has been made on a future investment for Wentzville.”

The leadership-backed bill, which was passed by the Missouri House last week, has tax credits for GM and all of Parson’s workforce agenda. The number of jobs GM would agree to retain in exchange for tax credits would be set by the DED under that proposal. Dixon said Friday that the number has not yet been set, but historically, companies promise to retain 88 percent of their jobs to access credits.

Sen. Bob Onder, a Conservative Caucus member, balked at Schatz’s claim that GM would not agree to the requirement to retain 90 percent of Wentzville plant jobs.

“That’s the whole point (of the tax credits) -- you need to either create or retain jobs,” Onder said. “The fact that retaining 90 percent of jobs - that’s the poison pill - that’s crazy.”

Even if the job retention rate mandate was a “poison pill,” Onder said the bill could be amended in a joint Missouri-House Senate conference committee.

Onder said proposals the Conservative Caucus sent to the Parson Monday were turned down.

“They don’t want to compromise and the governor’s office doesn’t want to compromise,” Onder said. “They are really hunkered down.”

A request for comment to Parson was not returned.

Caucus members have said that Parson tied his workforce development agenda to General Motors tax credits to ease the bills’ path in the Senate in the final weeks of session.

To force a compromise, the caucus members took two hour shifts filibustering the Missouri Senate journal, a procedure that normally takes less than a minute. The filibuster spanned about 17 hours by 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The legislative session ends 6 p.m. Friday.

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