(Update: Following a marathon 27-hour filibuster, the Senate passed SB 68, in a 25-8 vote Tuesday, establishing the Missouri One Start Program with incentives spurred by a potential $1 billion investment from General Motors in its Wentzville plant and the inclusion of a controversial Fast Track grant program and closing fund.)
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Jefferson City – Moving at lightning speed, the Missouri House has given the green light to a $50 million incentive package for General Motors to help the automaker expand its Wentzville, MO, truck and van assembly plant.
On May 2, GM representatives met with state and local officials behind closed doors in Governor Mike Parson’s office about the $1 billion expansion plan, which would add hundreds of thousands of square feet to the St. Charles County facility as well as an unspecified number of new jobs. Officials also learned in the meeting that Missouri was competing with other states for the project.
Exactly one week later, the Missouri House voted 92 to 51 in favor of a measure that contains a four-part economic development proposal that includes a $5 million per year, 10-year tax credit program for GM if the company invests at least $750 million at the plant. The bill now moves on to the Senate, which has until May 17 – the end of the legislative session – to consider it.
POSSIBLE ROAD BLOCKS
A group of Missouri Senate Republicans say Gov. Parson is attempting to force passage of his economic development package by claiming that it is essential to persuading General Motors to undertake the expansion of its Wentzville plant, according to a May 12 article in the Kansas City Star.
The group has resisted Parson’s proposals for most of the legislative session, the article states. Senator Andrew Koenig (R-St. Louis County) has promised to filibuster the bill if Missouri Senate Republican leadership won’t allow it to be pared down to the GM tax credits.
Republican State Senator Bill Eigel, from Weldon Spring, has come out against the incentive package, citing Ohio’s 2008 of $82 million to GM for a plant in that state, only to have GM close the Ohio plan earlier this year.
“I don’t support benefits that go to one company or group and not another,” Eigel said in a statement. “There are a lot of small and medium businesses in St. Charles that aren’t getting millions of dollars to risk their investments here.”
About 3,800 employees work at the plant, many of whom are UAW Local 2250 brothers and sisters. Additionally, the facility helps drive the local economy and supports more than 12,000 employees at 178 suppliers in Missouri.
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a friend of Labor, called GM’s proposed investment in the Wentzville assembly plant “great news.”
‘WE MUST WORK TOGETHER’
“It shows their continued commitment to Missouri,” Galloway wrote on her Facebook page. “We must work together to seize this opportunity; an opportunity made possible because of the availability of the highly skilled and ready UAW workforce.”
GM’s request for state assistance comes after the automaker has closed five plants in North America as part of restructuring and laid off more than 14,000 salaried and hourly workers. The company has not announced any decisions regarding the legislation pending in Missouri.
The Wentzville plant, which opened in 1983, currently spans more than 3.7 million square feet and employs about 3,800 people working three shifts building the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Express Cargo Van, GMC Canyon pickup trucks, and GMC Savana full-size vans.
The plant has a payroll of about $236 million, with a median annual wage of about $81,000.
GM made its last major investment at the plant two years ago, spending about $40 million for improvements to support additional production.
The automaker added a third shift on the van production line in October.
SENATE BILL 68
The GM incentives were added to an unrelated measure, Senate Bill 68, which had already cleared the Senate, State Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, explained in his “Under the Dome” report.
Beck said the House also expanded the bill to include several other economic development initiatives that are top priorities for Parson, including another new state job training program and creation of a special fund to provide upfront cash to companies agreeing to come to Missouri.
However, Beck says those initiatives have languished this year in the Senate.
(UPDATE – May 14, 2019: Following a marathon 27-hour filibuster by Senate's Conservative Caucus, the Senate finally agreed to and passed SB 68, in a 25-8 vote, establishing the Missouri One Start Program with incentives spurred by a potential $1 billion investment from General Motors in its Wentzville plant and the inclusion of a controversial Fast Track grant program and closing fund.
“Today’s final vote is a complete victory for Missourians and jobs in every corner of the state," Gov. Parson said in a statement. "We are sending a powerful message to the nation that we are ready to compete with every state for more jobs. From day one, I’ve talked about the importance of workforce development and infrastructure - and thanks to House and Senate Leadership, State Representatives Kathy Swan and Nick Schroer, and State Senator Lincoln Hough, we now have the necessary economic development tools to make an important investment in the skills of Missouri workers. We are now on track to be one of the most pro-growth, pro-jobs administrations in Missouri’s history.”)
(Some information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star and the Missouri Times.)