Special Session Likely to Focus on Economic Growth

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri lawmakers say boosting the state's economy will likely be the center focus of a special session next month. All, in an effort to generate job growth.

State Representative and Economic Development Vice Chairman Caleb Jones said the economic development and tax reform bill would generate $1.5 billion in net savings. This would be from reining in tax programs that are underperforming, and reallocating that money to benefit a greater portion of the state.

"Now, more than ever, the biggest issue that is facing Missouri families is economic development, and 'How we are going to keep our jobs here in Missouri?' 'How are we going to attract more jobs?' And with 9 percent unemployment here in the state, it's questioning everyone and every job out there and making sure we're doing the best for the state of Missouri," Jones said. 

One suggestion included in the bill involved providing tax incentives to the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. "Aerotropolis," is meant to transform the airport into a hub for international trade. The program is about $400 million in tax credits, Schaefer explained. For the most part, the money would be used for refrigerated warehousing. 

"You could have commodities that have to be refrigerated come in, have a place to be stored before they are shipped out or vice versa," Shaefer said, therefore opening up new trade possibilities. 

But not everyone is satisfied with where the tax credits would come from...

"The more controversial issue in the proposal of the bill is to create those tax credits by eliminating existing tax credits... We need to be very, very cautious when looking at eliminating that credit, which has proven itself to be successful, to pay for a project that is somewhat speculative," Schaefer said. 

Another part of the bill proposes a Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), which Schaefer said would expand the biotech industry. 

"There are several of us from Mid-Missouri who are working very hard to convince the governor that it would be good to include the expansion of the Callaway plant in the special call... We are going to be at a competitive disadvantage in the state of Missouri for manufacturing or any other entity that uses a lot of electricity, all the way down to residential by this additional tax. So if we can expand our capacity from nuclear, that is not subject to the tax," Shaefer said. 

He continued, "In the short term, it's roughly a $7 billion to $8 billion construction project over about seven years. At its peak, that's about 4,000 construction jobs. So if the point of the special session is economic development, there is no bigger economic development proposal in this state, than the expansion of the nuclear plant."

Until Governor Jay Nixon calls the special session, it is unclear how much each issue will be discussed, and what new proposals will be up for negotiation.