Taxpayers Question Cost of Special Session

9 years 3 months 1 week ago Monday, July 05 2010 Jul 5, 2010 Monday, July 05, 2010 6:50:50 PM CDT July 05, 2010 in News

When Governor Jay Nixon called the first special session in three years, it was in the hopes of passing a bill that would offer tax incentives to Ford.

However, the bill stalled in the Senate last week, and now the legislature is set to reconvene Wednesday to take it up again.

The bill was originally meant to save the Claycomo plant near Kansas City, but the branches of the automotive industry spread far around Missouri.

Republican representative Jerry Nolte of Gladstone said the bill would be helping much more than the Kansas City plant. "Across the state there are roughly 290,000 jobs that are directly related to the auto business.  They're not all directly related, of course, to the (Claycomo) assembly (plant), but they are auto-related jobs that depend on this industry," said Nolte.

Nolte is talking about the suppliers that make everything from the seats and tires, down to the very nuts and bolts of the cars. And the number of suppliers includes more than just the 3,800 jobs at the Claycomo plant.

Nathan Dampf, who works at Associated Industries of Missouri, an advocate for Missouri businesses, says the bigger question is what happens if the bill doesn't pass. "Think about what kind of situation the state's going to be in if you take away one of our largest employers. It would be a huge detriment to Kansas City, but especially the state of Missouri," says Dampf.

So pro-business interest see high stakes in this special session battle.  But what about the costs to wage it?  The Governor's office estimates the special session costs $125,000 per week to run.  And a big part of that cost comes from state legislator per diem pay. 

According to state law, the second a legislator votes in Jefferson City, he or she has to claim a per diem. However, that means that whether a legislator is coming from Kansas City or Jefferson City, it costs the state the same amount of money.

The Republican representative who represents Jefferson City, Bill Deeken, found out the legislator has to, by law, collect the per diem.

Eight years ago, he was one of the legislators who tried to get around it.

"We asked if we could not receive per diem," said Deeken. "They checked into it and found out that we have to do it because of the statutes. And we asked why and they said because of the others, there's about five or six counties around here where the people go home at night too and they said all you're doing is just jumbling up the whole mess."

Missouri could save about $90,000 in a regular legislative session if every legislator who lives within 30 miles of Jefferson City could skip the per diem, and perhaps $15,000-20,000 during this special session.

However, there is no current effort to pass such legislation.

And after paying a rare July per diem to get lawmakers back to the Capitol, there is no guarantee the General Assembly will pass the bills or that Ford will even take the bait.

"This is no silver bullet or magic pass. What this does is it gives the workers and businesses here in Missouri a competitive chance to fight for those jobs," said Nolte.

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