Missouri Gov. Nixon considering special session - KMOV.com

Missouri Gov. Nixon considering special session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is considering calling a special session this month on legislation aimed at enticing Ford Motor Co. to make its next generation of vehicles in Missouri.

Nixon held a conference call late Friday afternoon with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to discuss a potential session that could begin the last week of June.

House Majority Leader Steven Tilley and Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler, who both were on the call, said the governor would only summon lawmakers to the Capitol if there is bipartisan consensus on the plan.

Nixon spokesman Sam Murphey confirmed the potential June 28 start date for a special session and also stressed the need for a "broad consensus."

"At this time, we are communicating with legislative leaders to determine what level of consensus exists about passing the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act and ensuring that the necessary cost offsets to pay for the act are part of it," Murphey said in an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press.

The legislation at issue would let manufacturers keep part of the Missouri employee withholding taxes they normally would pay if they invest a certain amount of money on factory improvements for new products. Although it also could apply to other companies, the prime target of the bill is the Ford assembly plant in Kansas City suburb of Claycomo.

Ford officials have said there are no plans to shutter the factory, which employs about 3,700 people. But Missouri politicians want to make sure the plant is in the running to continue making the F-150 truck and the next generation of the Ford Focus and Mercury Mariner.

Legislation containing the incentives failed to pass last month on the final day of Missouri's regular legislative session, when it's fate was tied to a separate bill revamping Missouri's main pension systems.

Tilley, R-Perryville, said the governor is looking at a special session agenda that would include both the manufacturing incentives and the pension overhaul. Legislative leaders still need to gauge whether there is enough consensus to pass the package.

"I would be supportive of a special session to do the Ford plant and the pension bill as long as there is a bipartisan agreement going in," Tilley said. "So if we do a special session, we know it's going to get done, and we don't waste taxpayer money."

Engler, R-Farmington, said it's important that the increased costs of the proposed manufacturing tax incentives are offset with savings elsewhere in the state budget -- something the pension overhaul would accomplish.

During the conference call, "all we really came out with is an agreement that we will talk and see if we can come up with some bipartisan solutions," Engler said.

As passed previously by the Senate, the pension legislation would have saved money by increasing the minimum retirement age and requiring new state workers to contribute to the retirement system. The proposed changes would have affected workers added to the payroll in 2011 who are covered by the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System or through a separate plan for the Department of Transportation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The demise of the pension bill could mean more budget cuts. Legislators had assumed the pension changes would pass when approving a $23 billion operating budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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