Tiahrt wants audit of La.' s offer to Hawker

10/08/2010 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 9:59 AM

Rep. Todd Tiahrt is seeking an inquiry into whether an incentives package offered by Louisiana to entice Hawker Beechcraft to move operations to Baton Rouge included federal hurricane relief funds.

"I don't think economic recovery for Louisiana should mean economic disaster for Kansas," Tiahrt said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Taxpayer money sent to help the troubled state includes a provision that it can't be used to "pirate" jobs from one area to the other if it results in significant job losses, he said.

Tiahrt has sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for an audit to see whether it or any other states have violated the federal law.

He also has placed a call to Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Sen. Pat Roberts said he supported Tiahrt's inquiry.

"Congressman Tiahrt is asking tough questions that need to be answered," he said. "We must know all of the facts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being misspent at the expense of our state."

In a meeting with the media Thursday, Tiahrt was joined by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, City Council member Sue Schlapp, Sedgwick County commissioners Karl Peterjohn and Dave Unruh, and state Sen. Susan Wagle.

The news conference follows a story in The Eagle last month that Louisiana was using federal hurricane relief funds in its incentive offer to Hawker Beechcraft.

Sources have said that the state offered the company $100 million to move one production line to the state and $400 million to move the entire company.

Machinists union officials said Louisiana offered Hawker Beechcraft a package to move its entire operation to Baton Rouge.

Where is Louisiana getting the money for that kind of incentives package? Tiahrt asked.

How does a state with 60 percent more population and similar gross revenue as Kansas come up with a package that big? he asked.

Tiahrt said he isn't blaming Hawker Beechcraft.

"They have to keep their doors open," Tiahrt said.

In the economic downturn, the market for business jets has fallen 40 percent, he said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Parkinson and Hawker Beechcraft agreed to a package of incentives to keep the company and the "vast majority" of its jobs in Kansas. The deal is contingent upon the successful negotiation of a new contract with the Machinists union.

Tiahrt said he expects other members of Kansas' congressional delegation, along with delegates from other states, to support his questioning of the use of federal money.

Hawker Beechcraft employs 7,000 people, including 6,000 in Wichita.

Kansas was put in a difficult position, Wagle said. The state now has to offer incentives to hang on to jobs it already has. And that will cost the state's general fund at a time the budget is struggling, she said.

The city, county, state and federal government have worked hard to help build an aviation cluster in Kansas, Wagle said. But the loss of 6,000 Hawker Beechcraft jobs would hurt the city's real estate and entertainment markets, local suppliers and overall economy, she said.

When the news broke that Hawker Beechcraft was looking at other states, "this community came to a stop," she said. "People were thinking, 'How are we going to scale back?' "

A transformational shift is needed to ensure a favorable business climate in this country, Tiahrt said. Corporate taxes in the U.S., for example, are 35 percent, while Canada's are 18 percent, he said.

And actions should be taken to streamline and help bring down the high cost of complying with a myriad of regulations the aviation industry must comply with, Tiahrt said.

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