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Missouri Lawmakers Push Tax Break to Expand Kansas City Nuclear Weapons Facility The federal government’s existing campus in south Kansas City manufactures 80% of the non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons

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Above image credit: The National Nuclear Safety Administration plans to expand its Kansas City facility, which develops and manufactures the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. Missouri lawmakers are hoping to approve a sales tax exemption on construction materials for the private developer building the expansion. (Allison Kite | Missouri Independent)
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4 minute read

Kansas City-area lawmakers want to give a sales tax break to developers expected to expand a federal facility that builds non-nuclear components to “modernize and refurbish” the nation’s nuclear stockpile. 

A bipartisan group of Missouri lawmakers are promoting legislation to offer a sales tax exemption on materials needed to expand the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) existing campus in south Kansas City, which is operated by Honeywell International Inc.

Democratic Sen. Greg Razer told a Missouri Senate committee that the agency, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, plans to add 2.5 million square feet of new facilities and hire thousands of new employees. 

Rather than building the expansion itself, Razer said, the federal government will acquire the facilities from a private developer who can build them more quickly. He called it a “smart plan to keep our existing weapons arsenal safe.”

“We need to modernize this to keep them safe to ensure that accidents don’t happen,” Razer said, “and that’s what we will be doing in Kansas City.” 

According to a fiscal analysis on Razer’s bill, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to spend more than $3 billion on Kansas City facilities. Razer’s bill would divert almost $61 million in state revenue over 10 years, which he said the construction job creation alone would offset. 

The permanent jobs would then bring in additional state revenue. Jackson County, the city of Kansas City and the Kansas City Zoo would see a combined $81 million diverted from their budgets over 10 years.

If the federal government built the facilities, it would be exempt from paying sales tax anyway, Razer said. Exempting the private developer allows it to keep its costs on par with what the federal government’s would be.

State Reps. Chris Brown, a Republican, and Anthony Ealy, a Democrat, are sponsoring the same legislation in the Missouri House.

The representatives’ bills were combined and passed a House committee unanimously. Razer’s bill also cleared its Senate committee unanimously.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, offers amendments to a bill in the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 24, 2024.
Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, offers amendments to a bill in the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on Jan. 24, 2024. (Annelise Hanshaw | Missouri Independent)

A spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Agency said in an email that the new facilities would house about 4,000 employees, including existing employers working at other facilities and new hires. Asked how many jobs would be transferred from other facilities and how many new employees would be hired, the spokesperson did not clarify.

The spokesperson said since Honeywell moved to the existing campus in 2014, it experienced “significant growth in workload and personnel to support NNSA’s planned modernization of the nuclear deterrent.” 

Now, it’s pursuing the expansion to “expand manufacturing capacity and office space necessary to sustain continued production growth in support of NNSA’s national security mission.”

Construction is expected to begin this year and continue into the next decade. 

Kevin Breslin and Terry Anderson appeared before committees in the House and Senate to support the legislation on behalf of the developer, Promontory 150 LLC. 

The company, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings, is located on Main Street in Kansas City, sharing an address with the law firm Watters Wolf Bub Hansmann. Breslin is registered as a lobbyist for Promontory 150 LLC, Botts 150 LLC and Bannister Transformation & Development LLC. 

Botts 150 LLC appears to refer to the project. The National Nuclear Security Administration campus is located on Botts Road. 

Bannister Transformation & Development LLC owns the former Bannister Federal Complex where Honeywell operated before moving to its Botts Road facility more than 10 years ago. 

Anderson, according to a witness form filed with a similar bill in the House, represents Promontory 150 LLC/Platform Ventures. He’s co-founder and co-president of Platform, a real estate investment firm in Kansas City.

Breslin said in the Senate committee hearing that the federal government had already made an initial appropriation to pay for the 15 buildings it plans to add over the next 10 years. 

In the last 10 years, Breslin said, the campus has grown from 3,000 to 8,000 employees. The facility needs to double its capacity to accommodate work anticipated over the next 15 to 20 years to update decades-old systems.

“They need to be refurbished,” he said. “They need to be modernized in order to make sure that they’re safe and protective for our national defense purposes, so this is a critical, vital function that needs to be performed, and they simply need additional infrastructure to accomplish their national defense mission.” 

Breslin told the House committee the facility is “not a weapons production facility,” arguing it instead “supports the technology that secures those weapons.” 

The website for Honeywell’s Kansas City campus says it develops, produces, procures and delivers “over 80% of all nonnuclear components in support of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.” 

Both Razer and Breslin said it would take an additional three to five years for the federal government to hire contractors and build the facility itself than it will for the developer. 

The legislation was backed by economic development and city officials from Kansas City who welcomed the proposed influx of jobs.

During a hearing in the Missouri House Economic Development Committee last week, representatives praised Honeywell as a good “corporate citizen” and lauded the project as wonderful and promising for Kansas City.

Honeywell will run the new facility. The company referred questions to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Honeywell last month announced it would invest $84 million to expand its aerospace manufacturing facility in Olathe and hire 156 workers. 

Razer’s bill faced opposition from the state’s Sierra Club chapter and the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, a nonprofit organization that promotes nonviolence. The groups opposed the idea of producing parts for nuclear weapons. 

“This is a long-term investment in, really, the possible annihilation of humankind,” said Jeff Stack, with the fellowship of reconciliation. “We shouldn’t be a party to that.”  

Razer said he would love to live in a world where nuclear weapons don’t exist. 

“However that’s not the world we live in,” Razer said, “and we’re not producing new weapons … We are making sure that our aging weapons are safe.”

Allison Kite is a data reporter for the Missouri Independent, where this story first appeared, with a focus on the environment and agriculture.

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