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Mo. House Passes Boeing Bill, Special Session Ends

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Floor of the Mo. House shortly after the passage of the Boeing incentives bill on Dec. 6, 2013.

The Missouri House has passed the Senate version of the Boeing incentives bill, bringing a quickly-called special session of the legislature to a quick close.

The measure would provide roughly $1.7 billion in tax breaks over a 23-year period to Boeing to expand its St. Louis facility and build its 777X passenger jet there.  Perhaps the most enthusiastic endorsement on the House floor came from State Representative Steve Lynch (R, Waynesville), who also owns a furniture store.

"We need to seal this deal," Lynch shouted, "and Mr. Speaker, to sweeten the deal a little bit more I am willing to throw in a pair of free lamps!  Thank you, Mr. Speaker!"

That sparked laughter from the floor, along with a response from Speaker Tim Jones (R, Eureka), reminding House Members to "maintain decorum on the floor."

No one on the House floor spoke directly against the Boeing bill, but Democrat Steven Webber of Columbia said that Missouri's small business owners deserve the same kind of attention.

"Just because they don't make $4 billion in profit a year doesn't mean that they shouldn't be treated the same as everybody else," Webber said.  "Just because you're big doesn't mean that you should get to pay a lower tax rate than the hard-working small business owner."

Webber was one of 20 lawmakers from both parties to vote "no," as opposed to the 127 "yes" votes from both sides of the aisle.

Debate was interrupted before the vote when a clerical error was discovered – some phrases were missing from one of the amendments added on by the Senate.  The corrected version was read into the record just before the House gave final approval.

In a statement, Democratic Governor Jay Nixon commended the GOP-led legislature for quickly working to pass the bill that contains Missouri's proposal for the Boeing project:

"I greatly appreciate the General Assembly's work to send a bill to my desk in a timely manner so that we may submit a competitive proposal to Boeing on the aggressive timetable the company has set.  Just as we worked together in a special session in 2010 to revitalize our auto industry and attract historic investments from Ford and GM, Missouri has once again demonstrated to the world that when it comes to creating good jobs for Missouri families, we compete and we compete to win." 

Nixon's full statement and press release can be found here.

Reaction from the business community  has been swift -- from Dan Mehan, President and CEO, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry:

"Missouri has a long tradition of building quality aircraft in our state, starting with McDonnell Douglas and then transitioning into Boeing.  The aircraft industry touches every corner of our state when considering the nearly 700 small and large employers that serve as suppliers.  Missouri's qualified workforce has been a focal point of the debate, and lawmakers have worked hard this week to best position that asset."

From Brad Jones, Mo. Director of the National Federation of Independent Business:

"NFIB is pleased that the Legislature has taken swift and decisive action to bring these jobs to Missouri. We are hopeful that the governor and lawmakers will be just as diligent and committed to passing comprehensive tax relief for Missouri's small businesses when they return to the Capitol in January. Small business, after all, is Missouri's No. 1 job creator."

From Ray McCarty, President, Associated Industries of Missouri:

"Associated Industries applauds today's passage of an incentive package that will, according to Gov. Nixon, allow Missouri to present a competitive proposal for a large commercial aircraft project.  We have heard from our supplier manufacturers that this project could present an opportunity for many of them to mitigate the impact of federal sequestration and defense budget cuts. With some retooling, these manufacturers may be able to make parts for commercial aircraft and allow these employers to sustain themselves and grow."

Boeing has set a Tuesday deadline for Missouri and other interested states to submit their bids.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.