Thursday, March 17, 2011

Airport of Dreams

“If you incent it…”


The whisper fills the Economic Development Committee hearing yesterday in the Senate Lounge.


“If you incent it, they will come…”


Sen. Eric Schmitt presented SB 390 which would create the Aerotropolis Trade Incentive and Tax Credit Act.  This is the tax credit incentive to jump-start the “China Hub” concept.


Lambert International Airport is now known for its sleepy drabness, and one empty, unused runway.  Officials have been working with Chinese airlines to create a new trade route – bringing cargo planes full of Chinese goods into the St. Louis airport for distribution across the United States.  And the second half of the equation is filling those plane up with American goods for their return trip to China. 


Schmitt testified that the largest opportunity exists for agricultural products which require the faster travel time to retain their freshness.  Beef in particular is expected to see growing Chinese demand as their burgeoning middle class expands their diet to more expensive tastes.


Right now, Chicago is the Midwest incumbent for these flights.  Chicago has 26 Chinese flights a week.  St. Louis has zero.  These tax credits will incent the “freight forwarders” industry to consider St. Louis instead.


But St. Louis also has other strengths. It’s a more central location, closer in trucking terms to more cities.  And the build out for supporting infrastructure and industries would have much lower cost in St. Louis versus Chicago.


The tax credits have a cap at $300 million which sounds like an awfully huge price tag in this budget environment.  But Schmitt says if that number was hit, you’d be looking at billions in investment, and a transformation so large that it’d be easily worth the cost.


Reciting pattern of missed opportunity dating back from when the railroads went to Chicago because St. Louis was too slow to build a dedicated bridge across the Mississippi, Schmitt made the case that this was similar moment in economic development requiring thinking big.


Redistricting Rumors
Yesterday’s rumor has the Rep. Jo Ann Emerson camp (or perhaps others who imagine running for that seat someday) lobbying hard to keep her district from going too far north and taking in too much of the more Democratic Jefferson County.  


And a second variation on the rumor is that it’s not so much that the Republican index would drop with the inclusion of Jeff Co, but that it would shift the population base of the district away from its current home in Cape Girardeau.


Why Only Three Hours on Right to Work?
Here comes a theory on why the Senate only gave three hours of debate to the right to work proposal, and why any return to it will be window dressing without a real effort to pass it:


“Now that Pro Tem Rob Mayer may be on the ballot against Attorney General Chris Koster in 2012, Mayer’s studies may have given him a deeper appreciation of the issue and what it means to have organized labor pump $20 - $40 million into a ballot issue that is a life-or-death issue for them.  That’s why he’s changed his rhetoric on going to a vote of the people and that’s why you see the Senate putting RTW on the floor for three hours and then pulling it. 


“No Republican planning to be on the statewide ballot in 2012 wants to see RTW on the ballot or to energize labor against them.”



The House budget cut $600,000 from the Department of Economic Development.  It was a zinger for the slow-down in processing tax credit applications. The reasoning was is that if these folks not processing the applications, what are they doing?  Maybe the department doesn’t need as many people.  DED visits with some House leaders this morning…



Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger is working two omnibus local government bills this session.  The thinking is that these bills have such a high mortality rate if he can split the normally obese bill into two, perhaps they won’t get as weighted down.



Rep. Scott Dieckhaus has run into the teachers’ union power, unable to get his teacher tenure change out of his own committee.  Look for him to attach it to an appropriate vehicle down the road. 


Meanwhile Sen. David Pearce, the Senate Education Committee Chair, has had problems with his own committee getting his Turner fix to a vote.  Last time he tried there wasn’t even a second. Pearce holds the middle ground there between the Sen. Jim Lembke fix of fencing the city kids into city schools, and the Sen. Jane Cunningham fix of letting kids go anywhere.



Sen. Jim Lembke continued his filibuster of the unemployment benefits extension which would cost the state $0, and help families in distress.  When Pro Tem Rob Mayer suggested an amendment that would let the benefits flow everywhere except to the objecting senators’ districts, Lembke demurred citing a “constitutional problem.”



From Tony’s KC: Kansas City NAACP issues statement in favor of local control of the KC Police Department.  Read it Here.



Rep. Sylvester Taylor is doing better.


Business source: “I think if Rep. Todd Akin does decide to run for Senate, Sen. Tom Dempsey will be strongly encouraged to head for the US House.”



New Looks

Rep. Wanda Brown is no longer wearing the neck brace from her car accident during Snowmaggedon.


Sen. Will Kraus shaved his head for charity, raising $5,000 for the Hope House.



Lobbyists Principal Changes

From the Pelopidas website:


Elizabeth Copeland added Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers and Bryan Cave LLP.

Harry Gallagher added Associated General Contractors of Missouri.

Gamble and Schlemeier added School District of Clayton.

Jewell Patek added Areva.  

Scott Penman added Memory Care Home Solutions; and Missouri Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons; and deleted A.R.G. Investment LLC.

Jessica Hodge deleted Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.



$5k+ Contributions

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Fund - $12,000 from Ameren Missouri.

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Fund - $24,000 from Stone, Leyton & Gershman.

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Fund - $12,000 from Bank of Washington.

Missourians for Koster - $25,000 from Kenneth McClain.




Happy birthday to Rep. Billy Pat Wright (74), former Rep. Tom Self (44), and Todd Smith (52).




Francis R. Slay, father to Mayor Slay, as well as a former state representative, passed away yesterday.  He was 83.