Missouri lawmakers approve tax break for Kansas City nuclear weapons facility expansion

Missouri lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that offers tax breaks for a massive expansion of a south Kansas City federal plant where workers build key parts for U.S. nuclear weapons.

The legislation would provide a sales tax exemption on all materials needed to expand the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plant in south Kansas City. Manufacturing and technology giant Honeywell International Inc. operates the site and builds many non-nuclear parts for the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

The Missouri House passed the bill on the last day of the legislative session on a vote of 141 to 2, sending it to Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. It passed the Senate last month.

Lawmakers of both parties from the Kansas City-area supported the legislation, arguing that the expanded facility would create new, high-paying jobs in the region.

“This is a huge economic benefit for Kansas City,” said Rep. Chris Brown, a Kansas City Republican who filed a version of the bill along with former Sen. Greg Razer, a Kansas City Democrat. “I really cannot highlight that enough.”

While the bill passed with widespread support, it previously faced some pushback from legislators elsewhere in the state who compared it to Missouri giving tax breaks to help major corporations. Critics have also taken issue with helping a facility that builds parts for nuclear weapons.

Protesters descended on the facility last month while the House was considering a version of the bill. Police and security officers handcuffed at least 10 people who protested nuclear weapons and the decision to expand the site.

The proposed expansion would add an estimated 2.5 million square feet of office and manufacturing space. The project is expected to begin this year and continue into the “early 2030s,” a spokesperson for the federal agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The agency’s website states that it is focused on “developing, producing, procuring and delivering over 80% of all nonnuclear components in support of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.”

Brown said that the tax exemptions would go to a local developer who would complete the project and then sell the expanded buildings back to the federal government. He defended the tax breaks, arguing that it’s the same tax-exempt status the federal government would receive.

A fiscal note attached to the legislation estimates that the federal agency plans to spend more than $3 billion on the expansion. However, nonpartisan staff were unable to determine the total loss in sales tax revenue from the exemptions but assumed “the fiscal impact could be significant.”