Labor leaders call the move a win for workers, Missouri
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Jefferson City – The Missouri Senate approved an economic development bill last week that includes $50 million in tax credits over 10 years for General Motors if the automaker invests $750 million to expand its Wentzville, MO, assembly plant.
The expansion would add hundreds of thousands of square feet to the St. Charles County facility as well as an unspecified number of new jobs. About 3,800 employees work at the plant, many of whom are UAW Local 2250 brothers and sisters.
Missouri officials first learned of GM’s $1 billion expansion plan in a closed-door meeting May 2. They also found out in the meeting that Missouri was competing with other states for the project.
Lawmakers scrambled to pull together an offer for the company before the end of session May 17. The offer was tacked onto an existing measure, Senate Bill 68, containing an economic development package proposed by Gov. Mike Parson.
WIN FOR WORKERS
Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis called the GM tax incentive package a win for workers and the state of Missouri.
“Providing jobs in the long range is a priority, and it’s the most important step the state legislature can make,” he said. “Not only will this create jobs at the plant, it will spur job growth for those businesses that provide support for the plant.”
The Senate approved the measure May 14 on a 25 to 8 vote. Senator Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), president of the Missouri State Building & Construction Trades Council and an Insulators Local 1 retiree, voted in favor of the bill.
FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE, PRO-WORKER BILL
“Missouri is home to some of the hardest working and most highly skilled men and women in America, which is why global companies like GM continue to invest in our state,” Walsh said. “While other states are seeing their auto factories close or leave, I was proud to work with my colleagues to pass a fiscally responsible, pro-worker GM Bill that will keep these good-paying jobs in Missouri.”
The House approved the bill May 9 on a 92 to 51 vote. Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton), a Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 member, voted in favor of the measure because it will help with job retention and creation.
NEW JOBS IN THE BUILDING TRADES, TOO
“We’re talking about a $750 million investment at the plant that will keep it viable in the state and the country,” Beck said. “It will help retain jobs and create new positions at the plant, and it will create new jobs in the building trades with the plant’s physical expansion.”
In addition to the GM tax break, Senate Bill 68 contains other economic development initiatives that were top priorities for Parson, including the “Fast Track” scholarship program for adults to finish their college degrees and the creation of a special fund that gives the Department of Economic Development discretion to provide upfront cash to companies agreeing to come to Missouri.
Senate Republicans’ Conservative Caucus consisting of six members denounced the upfront tax breaks as a “slush fund” ripe for corruption and criticized the new scholarship program, which could only be offered to people going into fields designated by state higher education officials.
Members of the caucus stalled the bill with a 27-hour filibuster, but ended it to ensure the Senate had enough time to take up an anti-abortion bill before the end of session May 17.
Darri’n Hardy, a spokeswoman for GM, said the automaker and the broader business community appreciates the efforts by Parson and state legislative leaders for offering and supporting a comprehensive plan that encourages economic growth in Missouri.
NO DECISIONS YET
“While no final business decision has been made, we look forward to continued discussions with Governor Parson and his team,” Hardy said in a statement. “There are several factors that go into making these decisions, including the overall business case for a project, discussions with state and local community officials and discussions with the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“GM leadership is awaiting outcomes on these three elements of the business case before making any final decisions regarding potential investment.”
The Labor Tribune was unable to reach the UAW International Union for comment.
The Wentzville plant, which opened in 1983, currently spans more than 3.7 million square feet. The Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Express Cargo Van, GMC Canyon pickup trucks and GMC Savana full-size vans are built at the facility.
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.
(Some information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Missouri Times.)