Legislators working on bill to help state tire plants modernize

Thursday, April 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) _ State legislators are nearing a final version of a bill that would help finance modernization efforts at two Oklahoma tire plants.

A joint conference committee is working on House Bill 2245 by Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, and Sen. Sam Helton. The full House and Senate still must consider the measure.

The latest version calls for a $40 million state bond issue to help the Goodyear plant in Lawton and $5 million to aid in renovating the Michelin plant in Ardmore, Helton, D-Lawton, told the Lawton Constitution.

Goodyear has proposed spending $250 million on the Lawton plant so that it can shift production to larger tires. Comanche County voters on March 12 approved a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax that is expected to raise about $8 million.

The Goodyear plant, the county's largest employer, is slated to get $3 million of that.

``My hope is, we might be able to get it out (of the conference committee) next Monday,'' Benson said Wednesday.

Lawmakers are struggling with how to finance paying off the bonds in a budget year that will require cuts in the budgets of many state agencies.

Helton said the latest plan is to pay for the bonds by pledging money Goodyear has earned from the Quality Jobs Program, which offers incentives for economic development, and by earmarking state income taxes withheld from the paychecks of Goodyear employees.

That plan would still cost the state general revenue money, but it shows how Goodyear's economic activity benefits the state, said Sen. Jim Maddox, D-Lawton, a co-sponsor of the measure.

``I feel like we're making really good progress,'' Helton said. ``We're trying our beast to get it accomplished by the end of the month.''