Mo. lawmakers: Gov. Nixon to call extra session on Ford

Friday, June 18, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon plans to announce today that he is calling a special session to offer new tax incentives for Ford Motor Co., several state lawmakers said.

Nixon held a conference call Thursday morning with House and Senate leaders -- his second in a week -- and participants said the governor indicated he would call a special session that would start the week of June 28.

The special session would focus on two bills. One would offer incentives to manufacturers such as Ford; the other would revamp Missouri's employee retirement system by requiring future employees to start contributing a portion of their paycheck and delaying their retirement.

Savings from the pension changes are intended to offset the cost of tax breaks offered to Ford.

Nixon told reporters Thursday that he plans to announce a decision about a special session this week.

House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, who is involved in the negotiations, said an agreement has not yet been reached on the pension portion of the proposal.

"The pension bill would dramatically change public pensions in the state of Missouri," said Pratt, R-Blue Springs. "You've got a lot of folks paying very careful consideration as to how this affects public employees and how it affects state budgets."

Senate Appropriations chairman Rob Mayer said the pension bill is less controversial among senators than the Ford incentives. But he said he believes it has the votes to pass.

Some Senate Republicans "don't like the idea of showing bias or giving some type of assistance to one group of businesses or industries [when] others are not receiving assistance," Mayer said.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, wrote Nixon a letter earlier this week suggesting the special session should also include a proposal enhancing sales tax collections on Internet purchases. But Nixon said Thursday that the proposal has no chance of being accepted because of opposition from some lawmakers.

The proposed Ford incentives and retirement changes failed to pass last month on the legislative session's last day. But Nixon has continued to push for them, arguing that the incentives are vital to saving nearly 3,700 jobs at Ford's Claycomo factory near Kansas City. The assembly plant makes the F-150 truck, Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner.

Missouri's proposed incentives could apply to any manufacturer and would allow companies to keep half their state withholding taxes, if the company invests at least $100,000 per full-time employee on factory improvements for a new product line.

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