Our View

When it comes to giving taxpayer money to private companies, our skepticism runs deeps.

The latest reason to be wary stems from Missouri’s offer of up to $50 million in tax breaks for General Motors.

You’ll remember that Missouri lawmakers this spring made the deal to get GM to invest in its plant in Wentzville, near St. Louis, where Chevy trucks and vans are made.

Six months later, The Associated Press now reports GM has promised to invest $1.5 billion at the plant as part of a deal reached with the United Auto Workers that ended the group’s recent strike. Under that agreement, the company pledged to keep 2,000 jobs in Wentzville.

That’s a significant investment, and one the state is no doubt grateful for, but it’s also fewer than half of the 4,300 people currently employed there.

We have got to agree with the critics on this:

“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,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade.

St. Louis Rep. Peter Merideth, also a Democrat, argues that for a $50 million state investment, all the current positions at the plant should be retained.

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

There’s no way — without the commitment to keep all of those jobs — that this fits any definition of “good” investment.

At the very least, every tax incentive ought to be accompanied by a promise to grow jobs — not just to eliminate fewer jobs than would be eliminated otherwise.

Remember, too, that when some lawmakers this spring tried to insert a provision requiring the automaker to keep 90% of the jobs in exchange for the state money, the automaker balked.

On top of that, GM got a $50 billion bailout in 2009 when the company reorganized with one of the largest bankruptcy filings in history but never repaid more than $11 billion.

We think that’s already enough public money.

We should also note that General Motors gets numerous other incentives from Missouri, including state tax credits under the MO Quality Jobs Program.

Taxpayers have been generous. Missouri has been generous.

This is bad public policy on a number of levels.

It’s time it ends.

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