Missouri Gov. Parson outlines priorities in State of the State address
The Missouri Senate broke through more than 27 hours of filibustering by conservative Republicans Tuesday evening to pass a bill with $50 million in tax credits for General Motors, as well as Gov. Mike Parson’s workforce and economic development agenda.
The outcome is a major win for Parson, who has struggled to see movement on his priority bills all session.
He had pushed hard for tax credits to persuade General Motors to invest $1 billion in retooling and upgrading its Wentzville assembly plant. GM has said Missouri is its “preferred location” for the investment but does not consider it a done deal, according to Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon.
After the 25-8 vote, Parson took to social media to hail it “a complete victory for Missourians and jobs in every corner of the state. We are sending a powerful message to the nation that we are ready to compete with every state for more jobs.”
The bill set up a clash in the session’s final week between Parson and a group of six Republican senators known as the Conservative Caucus, who have stalled his workforce development measures.
After Parson announced GM’s interest, Senate Republican leaders combined the tax credits with Parson’s long-sought legislation to create an omnibus economic development bill, a move Senate conservatives saw as a political ploy to curb opposition. The bill included a scholarship fund that Conservative Caucus members saw as handing out free college, and an economic incentive tool the opposition called “a slush fund.”
Caucus members vowed to stop the bill and urged Senate leadership to take up a pared down version passed by the Missouri House Monday.
Starting 2:45 p.m. Monday, Conservative Caucus members took shifts reading from speeches by Ronald Reagan, books entitled “A Case for Trump” and “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist” and other material to swallow up time and move the needle. But Senate leadership remained unmoved. Parson chastised the filibustering band in a Tuesday press conference, urging them to let the bill forward for an up or down vote.
The caucus ultimately received a concession in exchange for standing down: elimination of a cap and end date for tax credits to teen pregnancy crisis centers, according to Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin.
O’Laughlin, a Shelbina Republican, said her support of her pregnancy crisis centers, which are family planning organizations that dissuade women from abortion, was “a moral issue.”
“If the question is should we support a billion dollar company that already has plenty of resources or should we support a facility that supports the sanctity of life, can they both be equal consideration? I think not,” O’Laughlin said. “Sanctity of life is more important to me.”
Moments after the Missouri House added an amendment to a Senate bill that accomplished their goal, Conservative Caucus members gave up on stalling the Missouri Senate.
The deal, however, was largely a face-saving maneuver for the conservatives. Demand for the crisis centers has never before exceeded the current cap of $2.5 million. The limit was already scheduled to increase in July to $3.5 million.
Parson’s priority bills - a $10 million scholarship for adults to return to college called Fast Track, as well as fund that would allow companies to access tax incentives up front instead of upon hitting promised jobs goals -- remained.
Lawmakers voted on the omnibus GM bill without having to publicly disclose the cost of the entire package: efforts to send the bill to fiscal review in the House were voted down and the Senate never brought up the option.
However, a fiscal note, or staff analysis, of the bill obtained by The Star showed that fully implemented, the package could cost the state up to $90 million. In its first year, it could cost up to about $59 million.
The note also showed that General Motors already receives tax incentives through other state programs. It is able to forgo tax payments to the state through the Manufacturing Jobs Act, in exchange for making a capital investment of $75,000 per retained job at plants that created a new product or $50,000 per retained job at the facilities that expanded an existing project.
Also, starting in 2014, it had received $33 million in tax credits under the MO Quality Jobs Program, according to a 2018 DED annual report.
The number of jobs GM is required to retain has not yet been set. During press conference, Parson, refusing to express a preferred rate, said he would leave the task to Dixon. GM rejected a proposal Monday that would have required it to retain 90 percent of the jobs at the Wentzville plant in order to receive the tax credit.