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Parson goes to bat for full workforce development package

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s chief executive is adamant any package designed to entice further investment from a car manufacturer should not just focus on one company or region, but rather the entire state.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, Gov. Mike Parson made his case for a vote on a robust House-approved incentive package seeking to lure a $1 billion expansion of General Motors’ Wentzville plant. The plan, wrapped up in SB 68, includes the Missouri Works – Deal Closing Fund, Fast Track, Missouri One Start, and other tax credits.

Parson called SB 68 a “work in process” that has often undergone changes and is the “right thing to do.”

“I believe the people in this state agree with it, and I believe they deserve a vote — up or down — on this issue,” Parson said. “I know people don’t like it, and they disagree with it. … But for people to have the right to vote on this issue, up or down, and I think that’s important.”

“The one thing I have to be clear about … I am not going to do one piece of legislation for one company or one community,” Parson added. “This is about the entire state of Missouri to me. … This is much larger than the automobile industry. This is all small businesses and large businesses across the state.”

By the time Parson addressed reporters late Tuesday morning, Senate conservatives had launched into the 22nd hour of a marathon filibuster. In shifts lasting throughout Monday night and into Tuesday afternoon, the Conservative Caucus held up the approval of the journal — an otherwise mundane activity — to protest the legislation.

“Where SB 68 falls short is the fact they have added things to [the bill] which clearly, in my mind, are not necessary for the overall GM deal,” Sen. Bill Eigel said at the start of the filibuster.

Instead, Senate conservatives have a backed proposal OK’d by the House — this one earlier Monday afternoon — dubbed as the “GM Light” deal. The scaled-back version, attached to SB 184, only includes Missouri One Start and a renewal of the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act with increased restrictions.

However, Senate leadership and conservatives have seemingly reached a stalemate. While conservatives have called for compromise, other Republicans have noted the watered-down deal is not “workable” for GM executives.  

Still, Parson said he’s “confident” the workforce development package will be completed by the legislative session’s end. The session is scheduled to conclude Friday evening.

“I think the majority, by far, of senators believe in this issue, and it’s just giving them the opportunity to vote on it,” Parson said, noting there are other issues such as abortion and tort reform that have been put on hold while there’s a holdup over the workforce package.  

Parson said he’s personally met with members of the Conservative Caucus “numerous times.” He and his staff met with all of the so-called “Conservative Six” in the Senate Monday with the exception of Sen. Bob Onder, he said.

“In spite of the time we’ve spent on the GM bill, the Heartbeat Bill remains the Conservative Caucus’s No. 1 priority,” Eigel told The Missouri Times. “I don’t envision the discussion on GM to interfere with the one on life. We will continue to work with Gov. Parson to achieve as many conservative priorities as we can before Friday’s deadline.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Senate conservatives were still holding court in the upper chamber.