House offers tax break to attract airplane manufacturer

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 | 8:09 p.m. CDT; updated 2:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House overwhelmingly passed a plan Wednesday that would give the world’s third-largest airplane manufacturer a $240 million incentive to build and operate a facility in Kansas City.

With a vote of 138-14, the House gave final approval to the bill, which supporters call one of the biggest bipartisan efforts for economic development in recent history. The bill was approved by the Senate last week and now heads to Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk.

Rep. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said the plan would bring a $3.4 billion investment to the state. He said the mega-project with Canadian-based Bombardier Aerospace would be the largest “blue-collar initiative” to ever take place in the state and estimated the company would create 2,100 jobs for Missourians, who would receive an average starting salary of $63,000.

The House version of the bill puts a $40 million yearly cap and an eight-year limit on the tax credits Bombardier would receive, which total $240 million. The company would start receiving incentives in 2013, when the legislature estimated the facility to be fully operating. Taxpayers are expected to get those credits back with 5.1 percent interest.

But Bombardier has yet to commit to building its projected $400 million facility in Kansas City. Richard said Missouri has a 70 percent to 75 percent chance of landing the manufacturer, which is also looking at building in its home country.

Rep. Timothy Flook, R-Liberty, said an initiative that puts people “back on the factory floor” is the best social program Missouri could implement.

“We can harness the intelligence and the work ethic of a whole sector of our state that wants to work and do good things,” he said. “They don’t want to be on government programs. They want to be free, and freedom comes from a good job in the private sector.”

Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Jackson County, said the consequences of not passing the bill would be worse than the threat of Bombardier choosing to build in Canada.

“If we don’t pass this, we have everything to lose in terms of our national and international credibility for the future of economic development in Missouri,” he said.

But Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra, said the plan is “offensive to every small business in this state” and that the legislature is focusing on the wrong part of the economy.

“How can we make the cuts that we’ve made over the past few years to mental health and social services?” she asked. “How can we put such strain on our rural school districts in terms of finances? How can we not reimburse them for their fuel costs to get children to school and then give $240 million to one foreign company?”

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