Governor Nixon is calling the legislature into session next Thursday to pass two bills. One is an economic development bill aimed at keeping Ford’s Claycomo plant in full operation. The other is a bill changing the state employees pension system in a way that lets the state pay for the tax concessions it would give Ford.
Senate floor leader Kevin Engler expects the session to be a quick one. He hopes an agreement can be made on the two bills before the session starts, letting the House pass the bills to the Senate by Tuesday, the 29th. If that happens, Engler hopes the Senate can send them to the Governor on July 1st and end the special session.
State budget director Linda Luebbering thinks the special session will cost about $125,000.
The so-called Ford bill is more broadly called The Missouri Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act. It would allow Ford to keep up to $15 million dollars a year in withholding taxes normally sent to the state if the company makes the capital investment needed to produce next-generation vehicles at the Claycomo plant. Production of some of the vehicles at the plant is to be ended this year. Supporters of the bill argue that retaining full production at Claycomo will mean jobs at dozens of smaller Missouri companies making parts for Ford.
The pension reform bill would require future state employees to contribute 4% of their salaries to their pension programs. They make no contributions now. The bill would not affect the Public School Retirement System nor would it affect the Public Education Employee Retirement System.
The Ford bill was near passage in the legislature last month. But the House balked on passing the pension reform bill that would have provided funding for it. The senate had passed the pension bill and was waiting for the house to approve the pension bill before taking the final vote on the Ford Bill. Both bills died on the last day of the session.
Nixon has issued the call although a final pre-session agreement has not been reached with House opponents to the pension bill. But Engler says negotiations are underway that he hopes will lead to an agreement.