Missouri lawmakers frustrated with GM job-retention promises

In this Sept. 16 file photo, production workers with United Auto Workers Local 2250 picket outside the General Motors truck assembly plant in Wentzville, Mo. Some Missouri lawmakers say they're frustrated with General Motors' promise to keep only 2,000 jobs at the suburban St. Louis plant despite the offer of $50 million in tax incentives. St. Louis Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth told The Associated Press that unless GM pledges to keep all 4,300 positions at the Wentzville plant, the deal will amount to spending taxpayer dollars on layoffs.

JEFFERSON CITY — After scrambling to pull together $50 million in tax breaks for General Motors, some Missouri lawmakers say the company is coming up short so far with its promises for job retention at a suburban St. Louis plant.

Lawmakers secured the incentives late last session at the urging of Republican Gov. Mike Parson, whose administration warned that the tax credits were needed to persuade GM to invest in its Wentzville plant.

GM builds the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickup trucks and the Chevrolet Express Cargo and GMC Savana full-size vans in Wentzville.

Six months later, GM promised to invest $1.5 billion in the site as part of a deal reached with the United Auto Workers that ended a contentious a 40-day strike. Under that agreement, the company pledged to keep 2,000 jobs in Wentzville — less than half of the roughly 4,300 currently employed there, according to GM’s website.

That frustrated lawmakers, especially House members who unsuccessfully tried to require GM to meet staffing thresholds to get the $50 million in state tax credits.

“We are giving millions to these corporations when we know at the exact same time that they’re going to be laying off Missouri workers,” Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said.

St. Louis Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth said he wants state economic development officials to push GM to retain all the current positions at the plant before doling out incentives.

“Any less than that is us just giving away tax dollars to lay off workers,” he said.

Despite the union agreement, Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon could still demand that the company agree to keep more than 2,000 positions in Wentzville to qualify for the tax credits. But it’s unclear where negotiations stand at this point.

Spokeswoman Maggie Kost in an email said the agency is still in talks with GM and “cannot discuss the details of our agreement until those negotiations close.”

Dixon has previously said businesses that receive job-retention incentives are required, on average, to keep 88% of their workforce.

Republican Rep. Nick Schroer, whose district includes the Wentzville plant, pushed for an amendment to require GM to keep 90% of the site’s jobs to qualify for tax benefits. The amended measure didn’t pass the Senate, although it was approved in the House.

Still, Schroer said he has faith that Dixon and the Parson administration will be able to persuade GM to keep more than the minimum 2,000 promised so far.

“For those people that are disappointed in what GM and UAW came up with, I think you’re going to see a much higher number,” Schroer said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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