The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 6, 2013

Boeing deal takes flight; most area lawmakers support incentive deal for new Boeing plant

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Southwest Missouri legislators almost unanimously endorsed an economic incentive package this week that is aimed at luring Boeing Co. to the state to build its 777X commercial jetliner.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 127-20 on Friday, and follows Senate approval on Wednesday.

State Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, was the bill’s lone dissenter from the Joplin area. White — who often opposes tax credit expansions — said he has concerns with the state providing special treatment to individual companies.

The proposed incentives would come from an expansion of four existing state programs that base the amount of aid on the number of jobs businesses add. The incentives could be worth between $435 million and $1.74 billion by 2040, depending on how many jobs Boeing creates in the state.

“I would do economic development ... in a different way than giving one company tax credits,” White said.

White also said he is concerned that as the state’s expenses grow, reduced revenue from companies taking advantage of tax credits could put other programs in jeopardy.

“We do have a balanced budget requirement and we have to work at that,” he said Friday. “The more we do tax credits in general, that’s money we’re not able to allocate in the normal budget process for education or anything we do.”

Other area lawmakers — Reps. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City; Mike Kelley, R-Lamar; Bill Lant, R-Pineville; and Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho — all voted in favor of the package on Friday, when lawmakers ended the special session that had been called by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Davis said Missouri has nothing to lose by offering the tax incentives to Boeing, because the money the state would lose if Boeing chooses Missouri is money the state wouldn’t receive otherwise.

“If you look at these tax credits, they’re going to go for new jobs,” he said. “If those jobs don’t come here, we’re not going to lose any revenue.”

State Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, also supported the incentives during a vote Wednesday. The Senate passed the measure 23-8.

The bill now heads to Nixon’s desk; he is expected to sign it.

Boeing has requested proposals from more than a dozen states. They are due on Tuesday. After that, it is all up to Boeing. The company is expected to decide on a location by mid-January.

Nixon praised the quick bipartisan passage of the legislation and said the incentives will put Missouri “in a very strong position to compete.”

Among those rallying support for the legislation was state Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters, a longtime electrician for Boeing who asserted the incentives posed no conflict of interest for him because he plans to retire in a few years. Another Boeing employee, Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills, didn’t vote on the legislation. Smith, a machinist on Boeing’s F-18, said it would have been a conflict of interest, “because this could ultimately benefit my pocketbook.”

Critics of the incentives largely kept quiet Friday. One lawmaker said he was filing a written objection asserting the bill violated the state constitution by directing taxpayer dollars to a private business. Others, like White, opposed the measure because it was tailored for a single corporation.

“Just because you’re big, doesn’t mean you should get to pay a lower tax rate than the hard-working small business owner,” said state Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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