JEFFERSON CITY -- In a move St. Louis leaders have been waiting for, Gov. Jay Nixon today ordered the General Assembly to return to the Capitol after Labor Day to revamp the state's job incentives.
The keystone of the package is a new $360 million aerotropolis tax credit, aimed at turning St. Louis into an international air cargo hub.
The wide-ranging agenda also includes a bill long sought by leaders at St. Louis City Hall: Returning control of the St. Louis Police Department to the city after 150 years of state control.
"After 150 years, we can see the finish line," said Jeff Rainford, chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay.
The local control bill died in May when the Republican-controlled House and Senate couldn't agree on how to cap two big development tax credit programs to produce offsetting savings for new incentive programs.
This summer, legislative leaders worked out those differences and asked Nixon to call them back.
Nixon set the opening gavel for Sept. 6, though all legislators won't necessarily come to the Capitol that day. Committees could begin work first, with debate in the House and Senate following later.
Legislators already were scheduled to be in the Captiol on Sept. 14 for the annual veto session.
By law, a special session can last up to 60 days. In addition to incurring staff costs, the state must pay mileage and $98.40 a day for each lawmaker's hotel and meal expenses.
Nixon, a Democrat, said legislators should work "as efficiently and effectively as possible to limit the cost of the special session for taxpayers.
"I appreciate the work the General Assembly has already done to achieve broad consensus on these priorities," Nixon said, "and I look forward to continuing to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle during an efficient, focused and productive session."
Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the aerotropolis bill could "help us pivot to a new economy. It's an opportunity you just don't get every day."
But the legislation might not have smooth sailing in the Senate. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the compromise bill was "dreamed up in one of those smoke-filled rooms in St. Louis."
Crowell noted that much of the savings the plan relies on would come from elimination of a tax credit used by elderly and disabled people who rent their homes.
"You're taking from old people and giving to developers," Crowell said.
Other items in the special session will include:
-- Moving the state's presidential primary from February to March to comply with national party rules.
-- Adding a tax credit to attract amateur sporting events.
-- Authorizing incentives to lure scientific businesses and high-tech data warehouses to the state.
Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the agenda leaves out the biggest job-producing proposal: allowing ratepayers to be billed for an early site permit for a second nuclear reactor in Callaway County.
"All the rest, the talk about jobs, is just fingerpainting in the margins compared to the nuclear plant," Kelly said.