JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A bill to extend the sunset period on the ethanol producer incentive fund passed the House Tuesday afternoon with bipartisan support, though it received pushback from some of the more conservative members of the body.
HB 1413, proposed by Rep. Jay Houghton, R-Martinsburg, extended the sunset date to the end of 2020. A number of Republicans and Democrats supported the bill, which passed 104-47.
“We had good biparitisan support. I’m really appreciative of the other side of the aisle for what they did to help get it across the line. It turned out better than I thought it might,” Houghton said.
Several conservative members of the House did object to the bill. Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, and Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, claimed it was a handout of taxpayer money to corporations that did not need it, money they argued would have been better spent on schools or roads or other government resources.
Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, also criticized the bill, saying there’s a potential for fraud and waste with ethanol subsidies, citing MSNBC’s American Greed program.
Supporters of the bill argued that it was a rural jobs bill and that the state would receive a great return on investment. Houghton pointed out that the largest city with an ethanol plant in Missouri is St. Joseph with a population of about 77,000. However, most of the cities and towns with an ethanol plant have between several hundred and several thousand people.
“So there’s good paying rural Missouri jobs with a good economic benefit,” Houghton said. “The return on investment is 13.4 to 1. And yes, the producers are getting some of that, but the state’s probably getting about half of it. That’s pretty good return on your investment.”
Houghton also pointed out that the bill only extended the dates for the ethanol program. Each time new dollars were to be given out, it would have to go through the appropriations process in the legislature.