The state Senate went into total stall mode Monday afternoon to block an incentives package for General Motors from making it to the floor. During this final week of the legislative session, the delay tactics have sidelined many other bills awaiting action.
Members of Governor Mike Parson’s own party who live near the GM plant in Wentzville do not see eye to eye with him about legislation aimed at a potential expansion there. The six-member Conservative Caucus led the way with Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, encouraging his fellow Republicans to find compromise on the $50 million tax credit bill. He’s not crazy about providing tax credits earlier in a business expansion and financial aid for people pursuing high demand jobs.
“In conversations directly with General Motors, in conversations that some of my colleagues have had, that neither of those provisions are necessary for us to put our best foot forward when it comes to the possible expansion in Wentzville. I want to make sure that we’re not passing anything that I philosophically have a lot of problems with that aren’t actually required to get this through,” says Eigel.
During floor debate, Lake St. Louis Sen. Bob Onder says he would support $50 million in tax credits, but not the other two components. Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, says GM wants the whole package – not just the $50 million. Onder does not buy Schatz’s remark. He says he talked to local officials in the Wentzville area.
“They told me that it’s not as black and white as the governor has been making it. The governor has been making it sound like the GM deal doesn’t happen unless his whole Christmas tree package is approved,” says Onder. “It’s clear that that’s not the case.”
Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, questions what GM has a problem with.
“I’m still kind of waiting to hear what is the hang-up,” asks Burlison. “If we are at a place where we have a bill that meets the needs of General Motors and the outlier issues are the issues that have controversy and have had controversy for months, then what is it that we really care about? Do we really care about getting this issue resolved, getting this bill done for GM? Is that the real care? Or, it makes you wonder has the real desire all along been these outlier issues? Maybe the tail is wagging the dog – I don’t know.”
The Conservative Caucus had a glimmer of hope when the Missouri House took the unprecedented move of passing a scaled-down version of the package with $50 million in tax credits. Missouri Senate Republican leadership didn’t budge and refused to accept the alternative bill – sending the chamber back into a standoff.
The Conservative Caucus does not appear to be growing tired.
“We’re not in a place yet where we can say that there’s a path forward but we’re taking a look at that,” says Eigel. “It’s kind of a take it or leave it choice right now and right now we’re leaving it.”
Senate Democrats are sitting back and watching Republicans squabble in hopes of other controversial measures not passing.
Under the Missouri Constitution, the Legislature must adjourn its regular session by 6 p.m. on Friday.
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