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Port bill makes it through Senate


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A bill that would benefit port infrastructure in Missouri has just one step left before it lands on the governor’s desk.

Sen. Paul Wieland’s SB 861 is a multifaceted bill that originally was designed to provide more funding to infrastructure, but it quickly evolved into a more general economic development bill after receiving some amendments in the House.

Wieland says he’s not complaining and that he is fine with the bill doing more for the economy.

“Go talk at home, everybody talks about jobs,” he said. “We need to create more jobs, good-paying jobs, family-sustaining jobs and I think this bill goes a long way to doing that.”

After its remodeling in the House, the bill now includes provisions that would provide a tax deduction to businesses that have previously left the state, in an attempt to lure those companies back, and create a Brownfields program to remove concrete at the closed Chrysler plant in Fenton that will create up to 300 new jobs. It will also allow ports, pipelines, parking facilities and other like buildings and structures to be defined as “projects” under the Missouri Public-Private Partnerships Transportation Act.

The senator’s original bill however, focused on developing port infrastructure through the institution of special advanced industrial manufacturing, or AIM, zones. If a local port authority to allow manufacturing plants to establish themselves in these zones and half of the payroll taxes from those specific plants will go into the Port Authority AIM Zone Fund. That fund will be used to expand existing AIM zones and create new ones.

A few senators had objections to the legislation. Sen. Rob Schaaf worried that the bill served as just another tax credit that would take $400,000 of revenue out of the budget. Wieland believes the economic benefits outweigh that chunk of revenue.

The bill has one final test. Rep. John McCaherty, who helped write some of the language in the bill, will now have to get it through the finish line in the House.