Highly controversial language has been removed from a bill headed to the state House today that would give lower electric rates to two potential southeast Missouri companies. The part some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle oppose could be added back in during the legislature’s special session that continues this week. Critics say the wording that bothers them would gut the Public Service Commission’s power and allow electric utility company Ameren to charge more to its customers.
During a House committee hearing Tuesday on the bill, Rep. Done Rone, R-Portageville, said his legislation would help attract an aluminum plant, steel mill and about 500 jobs to his impoverished district.
“We’re helping some people that absolutely positively cannot help themselves. They don’t have the ability to go find a job like they do in St. Louis, Jefferson City, Columbia or Kansas City,” said Rone.
Rone and Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, had a lengthy exchange. McCreery questioned whether it’s good policy to give businesses special incentives by lowering their electric rates.
“If we grant these special rates, are we going to be in a situation like we were with Stan Kroenke, where they want tax credits for building,” asked McCreery.
“No. I will not vote for them to have any tax credits,” said Rone. “I will say that publicly. I will not vote for them to have any tax credits.”
“How is that different, in your mind, from a tax credit,” asked McCreery.
McCreery said the measure would give the companies incentives on the backs of Ameren ratepayers.
“We’re not raising taxes but this is a tax,” said McCreery. “We’re charging Ameren customers additional money in order to help some mystery company.”
Resistance has grown on the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the House as an amendment. Part of the pushback has been largely from Democrats about the name of the steel mill, which has been kept under wraps.
Rone says he gave the owner his word that he would not release that information. Rone says every state would be calling the owner trying to get the company to move to their state.
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, could add an amendment on the floor today that would put in place conditions if the companies do not meet certain benchmarks. They could lose the special rate and be required to repay the difference.
Listen to the exchange between Reps. McCreery and Rone.