House panel scraps Nixon plan for job incentives

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Jay Nixon's newest job-creation plan has been quickly rejected by House budget writers.

The Democratic governor had sought to use $200 million from the federal economic stimulus package to create a pair of business incentive funds run by the Department of Economic Development.

But House Budget chairman Allen Icet allotted half that amount when he introduced the budget legislation last week. On Monday, the House Budget Committee scrapped the rest of Nixon's plan and redirected the money to specific projects in committee members' districts.

The House panel then approved a four-bill package authorizing the expenditure of several billion dollars from the federal stimulus package.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste expressed frustration Monday evening and suggested that lawmakers weren't using the stimulus money wisely.

"At a time when we have a 25-year high in unemployment, the governor believes investing in job creation should take precedent over pet projects like a $15 million parking garage in Jefferson City," Holste said.

The proposed state parking garage has been praised by several lawmakers as an excellent use of the one-time federal money that would put state workers closer to their job sites while saving the state from paying for leased parking spots and shuttle bus services.

The parking garage already had been included in the legislation pending before the House Budget Committee before members hammered out Nixon's proposed economic development fund.

As envisioned by Nixon's administration, the $100 million incentive fund could have been awarded -- in chunks of up to $10 million -- as forgivable loans or cash advances to companies pledging to create at least 100 jobs.

The Missouri plan would have been similar to the Texas Enterprise Fund, which was created several years ago to provide grants to businesses locating or expanding in that state. Some Texas lawmakers have raised concerns that there is a lack accountability over the fund.

Some Missouri lawmakers also have expressed concern that Nixon's proposal would create a new pool of money -- apart from existing tax credit programs -- over which his administration would have considerable discretion is disbursing.

Some Democratic members of the House Budget Committee spoke in favor of Nixon's proposal. But many Democrats then joined with Republicans in supporting amendments that diverted the money for other uses.

"I think it's fairly clear to say all the members of this committee don't consider this a priority, given all the other things they want to do," Icet, R-Wildwood, said.

In place of Nixon's incentive fund, committee members voted to fund several college construction initiatives. Those included:

* $20 million for maintenance and repair at the four-campus University of Missouri system.

* $16 million for building expansions at Jefferson College.

* $8 million for a new building at the Richwood Valley Campus of Ozark Technical Community College in Christian County.

* $7 million for a Bootheel Advanced Technology Center in Dexter that would be run partly through Linn State Technical College.

* $1.6 million for a new Moberly Area Community College building in Hannibal.

House committee members also voted to allot nearly $7.5 million for a 28-bed expansion of the Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center in St. Joseph. They approved $5 million in aid for mass transit in Kansas City, a move some lawmakers said was fair because the legislation already includes about $20 million in aid for St. Louis mass transit.

The Kansas City area also got $1 million for a Youth and Family Life Center and $400,000 in construction grants for homeless youth campuses.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: