Update: Howell Co. senator stalls Ford incentives

Update:Thursday, July 1 at 7:14 p.m.

It took all day Thursday for the Missouri Senate to approve a state pension reform plan that senators had said yes to on two previous occasions.

The resistance to agreement started much earlier in the day, when tax incentives for Missouri automakers ran into a road block in a Senate Committee.

Gov. Jay Nixon made it the centerpiece of the special session: a bill to provide financial incentives to Ford Motor Co. to re-invest in its suburban Kansas City assembly plant and keep thousands of high-dollar jobs in Missouri.

"I think they understand that we're competing for the auto jobs of the future, Nixon said of state lawmakers. I think they understand we're on a tight time line.

The road block is southern Missouri Republican Sen. Chuck Purgason.

He refused to let the Ford incentives bill out of his fiscal oversight committee. He calls it a government bailout and wants no part of that kind of spending.

We're lookin' at a position of layin' off 10,000 state workers next year, Purgason told capitol reporters. "What part of broke do we not understand?

Following Purgason's committee hearing, Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors, then tried to put the best face on the situation.

"It really doesn't change anything, because we have to do the pension bill first, Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Charlie Shields said. It may add one day to the process as we figure that out. But we're ready to move forward and send back to the House our version of the pension bill.

Represented as necessary to finance the Ford incentives, the Senate's pension reform legislation is not a generous as the House version. It requires 10 years of service to vest, to the House's five years. The Senate plan pays benefits at age 67, not 65 like ths House plan.

Under the House plan, it's 84 and out, a retirement option when age plus years of service equals 84. The Senate makes it 90.

The big stumbling is the Senate's demand for a single board to manage investments for both of the large pension plans, something the House rejected,

"The whole benefit of this is that it will save taxpayer dollars, Sen. Jason Crowell (R) Cape Girareau said.

Some lawmakers still want Nixon to expand the session call to include money for data storage centers. They say major data companies are poised to invest billions of dollars sometime yet this summer.

"Data centers are a more timely, important matter than the Ford deal itself, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, (R) Columbia said.

Nixon had said repeatedly he would not call a special session without a consensus of support for the narrow agenda he defined. The legislature appears distracted by a number of personal agendas.

"I'm not gonna criticize folks that take out of their summer vacations and out of their efforts to meet with constituents to come back to the capitol to do the people's work on this time frame, Nixon said Wednesday.

The Senate finally adjourned around dinner time after passing the pension bill. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to the capitol until the latter part of next week.

Original Story:

Legislation offering incentives to Missouri automakers has run into a road block in a Missouri Senate committee.

The centerpiece of Missouri's special legislative session is intended to entice Ford Motor Co. to make its next generation of vehicles at the Claycomo assembly plant near Kansas City.

But the bill stalled Thursday when the Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee adjourned without taking a vote on it. Committee Chairman Chuck Purgason said he wants to kill the bill offering up to $15 million annually of tax incentives.

Purgason, a Republican from Caulfield, said Missouri cannot afford to give away more money to big businesses when the state is facing a budget shortfall.

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