JEFFERSON CITY – Following an extensive filibuster in the Missouri Senate, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 68, a bill aimed at delivering tax credits to General Motors but linked to a workforce development plan championed by Gov. Mike Parson and Senate leadership.
Several senators, members of the self-named Conservative Caucus, took turns to filibuster overnight into Tuesday on the legislation, Senate Bill 68, with discussions continuing both on and off the floor of the chamber.
The bill would deliver $50 million in tax credits to GM as part of a revamp of its plant at Wentzville and fund a workforce development plan that sets up a $10 million scholarship for adults returning to college.
A signature from Gov. Parson — the bill’s chief architect — is all that's needed for the legislation to become law.
The measure also includes changes to the Department of Economic Development's $116 million Missouri Works program. The government and many senators wanted to introduce clawback provisions to replace the current job and investment targets.
Caucus members also pushed to include charter school expansion or school vouchers in the bill, as well as a tax on online sales and a cut to the individual income tax.
They further wanted a GM promise to retain 90 percent of the Wentzville plant jobs following the reorganization of the plant. Supporters of the bill said this was a "poison pill," a claim that prompted Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis), a caucus member, to say, "That’s the whole point (of the tax credits) – you need to either create or retain jobs. The fact that retaining 90 percent of jobs – that’s the poison pill – that’s crazy,” a posting on the Kansas City Star website said.
Business leaders had been impatient with the Senate over the bill, which passed the House last week.
"Enough enough, it's time for a vote," Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement Tuesday. "The Missouri Legislature must get past the obstruction in the Senate and pass Senate Bill 68. "
He said the chamber strongly supports the bill as the only one "with the right mix of economic development tools to enable the General Motors expansion in Wentzville while addressing two of the biggest issues facing our state’s entire business community: workforce preparation and economic competitiveness."
"Some lawmakers are proposing an alternative bill with fewer provisions and an insufficient vision for what Missouri needs to do in 2019 to be competitive," Mehan said. "This bill is inadequate. It does not get the job done to attract the GM investment and it does not get the job done for Missouri employers."