Senate panel advances Boeing subsidy for expansion
COLUMBIA — Boeing Co. is a step closer to receiving a $120 million subsidy from South Carolina in exchange for a major expansion of its operations in North Charleston.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, introduced a bill including the money Tuesday, and the committee advanced it.
The legislation received modest opposition from Finance Committee members, with tea-party-aligned Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, casting the lone opposing vote. Bryant said he couldn’t in good conscience support the state taking out $120 million in debt. Fellow tea party Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, voted “present,” essentially reserving his vote.
Under the bill, the money would be raised by selling state-backed bonds. The $120 million would be used to offset some of Boeing’s upfront expansion costs, such as site-preparation work, road improvements and utility expenses, Leatherman and House Speaker Bobby Harrell said this week. Boeing confirmed the expansion Tuesday morning, saying it will invest another $1 billion and add at least 2,000 jobs in North Charleston by 2020.
Eighteen senators voted in favor of the proposal, with several heralding Boeing’s expansion.
“We’re so happy to have you here. You are a world-class company,” Leatherman said on the Senate floor.
Leatherman said South Carolina “could very well become the aerospace hub” when increased activity from Boeing suppliers is factored in.
Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt told senators the expansion “increases the heartbeat of suppliers who will be looking to come to South Carolina.”
During the finance panel meeting, Davis questioned Hitt about what would happen if Boeing hires 2,000 new workers as required under the proposed agreement, then lays them off after the mandatory one year of employment. Hitt responded that the package would include a so-called “clawback” provision to protect the state’s investment.
Harrell introduced a House version of the Boeing bill, which has been referred to the lower chamber’s budget-writing committee.