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‘GM Lite’: House proposes job retention requirement without Fast Track, closing fund

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The House is sending the Senate a scaled-back version of an incentive package spurred by a potential $1 billion investment from General Motors in its Wentzville plant.

The House voted 114-31 in favor of Sen. Wayne Wallingford’s SB 184, which now includes tax credits for the automotive industry. This is the second bill that includes the investment incentives.

“We wanted to have a couple different options out there,” said Rep. Nick Schroer, who introduced both amendments on the two bills.

At the beginning of May, officials from Generals Motors met with Gov. Mike Parson and other state leaders to begin preliminary talks about a potential $1 billion expansion at its Wentzville plant. Though Missouri is not the only state under consideration for the investment.

General Motors Wentzville Assembly has been operating since 1983 and employs roughly 4,600 hourly and salary employees who work over three shifts. The plant is situated on 438 acres of land in a former wheat field about 40 miles west of St. Louis in Wentzville.

On Thursday, the House approved of the original incentive package — added on to SB 68 — designed to lure the expansion to Missouri with tax incentives for the automotive company. The original plan included the Missouri Works – Deal Closing Fund, Fast Track, Missouri One Start, and tax credits.

The Conservative Caucus has been in opposition to the closing fund and Fast Track — and even the amended version of the adult-scholarship program has not swayed their opinion.

“I cannot support [a] bill that includes ill-conceived ‘deal closing’ slush funds. TX Enterprise Fd often held up as exemplar. Appearance of pay-to-pay corruption can’t be ignored in the year of Stenger. Unnecessary for ⁦[General Motors]⁩ deal!” Sen. Onder tweeted.

The newest version does not include Fast Track or the closing fund, but it still includes tax incentives for the automotive industry. The automotive economic development provision is aimed at helping retain automotive jobs by granting $5 million in tax credits annually to manufacturers that invest $500 million or more in plant upgrades and agree to retain current workers.

The new version, however, ties the tax credits with a 90 percent retention of the number of employees.

“This is a good alternative to the garbage we passed last week,” said Rep. Justin Hill, though he noted it is still “theft with the endorsement of government.”

Since the amendments were added to a Senate bill, lawmakers in the upper chamber have the option of accepting the package as is or sending it to conference committee.

Without Fast Track and the closing fund, the package may have an easier time in the Senate than the original version.

“The amendment to SB 184 appears to provide the incentive GM is looking for. It is definitely a more palatable bill than SB 68 in its current form,” Sen. Denny Hoskins told The Missouri Times.

“I support the latter bill that does not include slush fund and ill-conceived [Fast Track],” Onder tweeted Monday evening. “But I understand [Sen. Dave Schatz] has not taken the message in from the House.”

Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.