Legislators line up behind Boeing incentives

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and House GOP leaders brief reporters after meeting with Gov. Jay Nixon Monday afternoon.

Gov. Jay Nixon appeared to have strong support for an incentive package for Boeing after meeting with GOP leaders Monday.

The Democratic governor called a special legislative session last week after Boeing announced it was looking for a state to host production of its planned 777X airliner. Boeing's request for proposals came after negotiations with unions in Washington state, which is home to most of the company's commercial production lines, broke down. Nixon's proposal would allow up to $150 million a year in incentives for aerospace projects that create at least 2,000 jobs in 10 years, such as Boeing's new airliner. The incentives would all come out of existing programs.

Speaking with reporters after Nixon met with the House Republican Caucus, Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said he was "excited that Missouri is even being considered for the project." He said the production line would bring manufacturing jobs to Missouri but cautioned care needed to be taken to avoid exposing taxpayers to undue risk. Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town & Country, echoed Jones' sentiment.

"It's an exciting opportunity, but the Devil's in the details," Diehl said.

Gov. Nixon said after meeting with Senate Republicans he wanted to keep the session focused on the Boeing project and avoid bickering over partisan issues like tax credits and union regulations. Both he and Jones said Republicans would respect this request.

"There are really only two significant manufacturers of commercial aircraft in the world: Airbus and Boeing," Nixon said. "In that sense, I want America to win. I want Missouri to win."

Senate Democrats said they too supported the Boeing proposal, though they said they intended to bring up in debate the Republicans' refusal to expand Medicaid in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, who is co-sponsoring the senate bill authorizing the incentives, said she wondered why the state was willing to help a major corporation but not people who did not have healthcare. Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said she had spoken informally with members of her party and found many shared Nasheed's concerns. Nevertheless, Justus said most supported the Boeing incentives.

"The reality is, we should also be addressing Medicaid expansion in the state of Missouri, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna slow it down if we have the opportunity to create these jobs," she said.

Nixon said the state has until the close of business on Tuesday, Dec. 10 to send a proposal to Boeing but he hopes to get it done by the end of this week.