By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
A filibuster that lasted 27 hours finally ended and the Missouri Senate late Tuesday approved a workforce development bill which includes $50 million in tax breaks for General Motors to expand its factory in Wentzville.
Gov. Mike Parson acknowledged the incentives for General Motors were a late addition to a measure he has touted from the beginning of the legislative session.
“The General Motors factory came in way late in the game. It just happened to be the one that proved that what we’re trying to do in workforce development works,” Parson told reporters during a hastily called news conference at the Capitol.
General Motors will receive $50 million in tax credits over 10 years if it invests at up to $1 billion to expand its Wentzville plane which makes trucks and vans. GM plans a 150,000 square foot expansion in Wentzville.
“We know a billion-dollar investment in that plant I believe is a signal to say we’re staying here in Missouri and they could definitely go to any other state. They could go overseas,” Parson said. “That’s why this is so important to do that. And I think with the entire package that we put in there is important to do that.”
The House approved the legislation earlier, but it bogged down in the Senate with objections coming from fellow Republicans. The Senate Conservative Caucus claims the upfront business tax breaks are ripe for corruption and questions how proposed new scholarships would be distributed.
Parson said Missouri needed to act and not just to lure new jobs to the state.
“So many times, everybody is talking about new jobs, new jobs. It’s just as important to retain jobs in this state as it is to create new jobs,” according to Parson. “When you think about the thousands upon thousands of people who will be going to this site, working, on construction jobs alone, not counting your everyday people that work in that plant is huge.”
Parson defended adding the GM package to the measure, arguing it will benefit the entire state.
“This is just too big of an opportunity. It’s one we’ve never had in the state of Missouri. You just don’t want to lose that opportunity,” Parson said. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
The GM incentives were wrapped into legislation that also creates a new scholarship for adults to finish their college degrees and gives the Department of Economic Development discretion to provide upfront tax breaks to other businesses before they complete their planned expansions or hire additional employees.
Opponents have denounced the upfront tax breaks as a “slush fund” that would be ripe for corruption and also criticized the new scholarship, which could only be offered to people going into fields designated by state higher education officials.
The filibuster ended when it threatened a sweeping abortion bill that the Conservative Caucus favors. The legislative session ends Friday evening at six o’clock.
“Our desire to protect innocent human life was leveraged against us,” Republican state Sen. Bob Onder told the Associated Press.
Onder joined the filibuster even though his St. Charles County district includes the GM plant.
The GM plant in Wentzville employs about 4,250 people in three shifts to make the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks as well as the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans, according to GM’s website.