The special legislative session focusing on tax incentives to keep the Ford plant in Claycomo at full production has started quietly with lightly-attended sputtering technical session in the House where two bills were introduced. The Senate conducted business as usual although several senators also were absent.


The two issues for the session called by Governor Nixon a week ago are ten years of tax incentives that could total $150 million for Ford in the next ten years and changes in the state employees’ pension systems that could save the state far more than is necessary to finance the Ford incentives.

The House and the Senate could not agree on the pension plan that hung up in the House on the last day of the regular session that ended May 14.

The state senate has a contingency plan for the session. It has introduced its own version of a state pension system overhaul bill. Senate leader Charlie Shields says it’s important the Senate have its own version of the pension bill in case the bill the House will pass does not mirror the Senate version. He hopes the House sends the Senate a bill it can pass next Thursday when it returns to the capitol. But he says it’s important the Senate have alternatives.”

Senators think a state pension reform bill has to be approved before the Ford tax incentive bill is adopted. They say savings from the pension reforms will offset income the state will lose because of the Ford tax breaks.

The pension bill will require state employees hired after January 1, 2011 to contribute four percent of their salaries to the state pension plan, reducing the amount the state contributes. The bill does not affect employees in the pension plan before January 1 nor will it affect present pensioners.

The act also allows other state pension systems to join the main state pension program, creating the possibility of a single state pension system instead of eleven plans today.

The bills introduced in the House are expected to be heard by committees Monday with the full House returning on Tuesday. Under the best possible scenario, the House would pass both bills Tuesday so Senate committees can consider them Wednesday and final approval could be given Thursday, wrapping up the special session. But veteran lawmakers and legislative observers say opponents could delay final passage..

Ford has not publicly said it will retool its Claycomo assembly line but it is believed to have told state officials it can start producing a new model line there if the incentives are available. Ford is shifting production of its Escape small SUV to a plant in Kentucky in late 2011.

Post-session news conference with Sens Shields & Engler 5:49 mp3