Big River Steel Superproject Alters Arkansas Session Agenda (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013 12:08 pm  

Gov. Mike Beebe and John Correnti at the Jan. 29 news conference announcing plans for a $1.1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County. (Photo by Jason Burt)

"Obviously our economy is struggling and the thought of adding a lot of $75,000-paying jobs is intriguing," House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said. "But we have to understand what it's going to cost the state per job."

The top Democrat in the House predicts legislators will back the incentive package, but said it first will require some tough questions about the state's commitment and whether the mill will come to fruition.

"It's such a large project that it's definitely going to require a look, but I imagine there would be strong legislative support for it," said House Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville.

The project could also shuffle the state's priorities in other areas. Legislative leaders have already delayed discussions about tax cuts while they address a shortfall in the state's Medicaid program, a deficit that officials reduced to $61 million last week. The potential cost to the state for the superproject could alter that tax cut discussion even more.

Legislative leaders are vowing due diligence when weighing the plan, but also acknowledge the tight deadline lawmakers face in making the decision.

"This is Inning 2 of a nine-inning baseball game and the House and Senate has a lot of work to do in a short period of time," House Speaker Davy Carter said.

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