Missouri Senate aims to bring Canadian jet-manufacturing jobs to Kansas City

Thursday, May 1, 2008 | 9:07 p.m. CDT; updated 9:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate approved up to $240 million in tax credits during eight years to Bombardier, a Canadian aircraft company, that supporters say could bring 2,100 new jobs to the state.

Although the tax credits are aimed at attracting a jet-manufacturing plant in Kansas City, it was a senator from there who delivered the first attacks against the proposal.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R—Lee’s Summit, said it was a mistake to invest tax resources into manufacturing when the economic future for the state lies with new technologies.

“Americans are unwilling to work for the going rate for manufacturing, and it’s been this way for 50 years,” Bartle said. “For 50 years, manufacturing jobs have been moving to countries where the wage base will work for less.”

Critics in the Senate also voiced doubts about the future of the company.

“We don’t know the aircraft manufacturing business,” Bartle said. “We don’t know it’s prospects. We don’t know its overall health in the current marketplace. We’re buying $240 million of junk bonds.”

The bill’s sponsor is the Senate’s GOP leader, Sen. Charlie Shields, R—St. Joseph. He said the bill would require the company to refund the tax credits after the plant became operational.

“This has a positive direct internal rate of return requirement in the legislation,” Shields said.

Legislators said they were concerned that they were investing in a foreign company rather than a Missouri based company.

“We’re giving this French-Canadian company a quarter-billion dollar tax cut. One company that’s not an American company, and one company that’s not a Missouri-based company. We are voting today to prefer this French-Canadian company over every other employer in the state of Missouri,” Bartle said.

Supporters replied that the high-salary jobs required by the bill, along with the requirement for health insurance coverage, would benefit Missouri workers. Shields said the company is expected to hire about 2,100 jobs for the plant.

During the opening hours of debate Thursday, Shields addressed the personal relationship of the governor’s family with the company.

Shields acknowledged that Gov. Matt Blunt’s sister, Amy Blunt, worked for a Kansas City law firm retained by Bombardier.

Shields argued against amendments that would have prohibited relatives of the administration from working for the aircraft company.

“I don’t think that we ought to be in that business of taking people and putting them out of a job,” Shields said.

Sen. Rita Days, D—St. Louis, said that it’s not uncommon for legislators to take advantage of their positions by voting to create new jobs for themselves.

The tax-credit proposal now goes back to the House which had approved a $880 million package of tax credits for the Canadian firm.

The House can accept the $240 million Senate plan and demand a conference committee to work out the differences in the remaining two weeks of the legislative session.

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