BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana lawmakers are speedily pushing a $400 million spending package through the Legislature, hoping to entice a German steel manufacturer to place a new $2.9 billion mill in the state.
ThyssenKrupp AG is expected to announce Friday whether the mill will go to Louisiana or Alabama.
Louisiana's latest effort is two-pronged: Gov. Kathleen Blanco is pushing lawmakers to add another $100 million to a $300 million fund set aside for the mill. Lawmakers also must agree to spend above the state's annual spending limit to make the money available.
Bills that would authorize both received approval from the House Appropriations Committee without objection on Tuesday. Committee chairman Rep. John Alario said the legislation has broad support from both Republicans and Democrats, despite other disagreements over spending proposals.
''We feel it's important to send a message to the German steel mill that Louisiana is prepared to live up to its agreement to provide $400 million in cash right away,'' said Alario, D-Westwego.
The $400 million fund for the mill would be used for site improvements and construction, like pilings, roads, docks and other infrastructure, according to Blanco's office.
The bills move next to the full House for debate. Similar legislation is moving through the Senate.
Also, the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday approved a separate bill that would continue a sales tax break for utilities used by steel manufacturers that expires this June, a tax break for which ThyssenKrupp would be eligible. That bill also heads to the House floor.
ThyssenKrupp is choosing between a location in St. James Parish along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and a site near Mobile, Ala., to place its new steel plant - which will employ 2,700 people.
The plant is expected to begin operation in 2010. It would be the German company's first steelmaking operation in the United States, processing carbon steel and stainless steel for automakers, electrical companies, appliance manufacturers and more.
Alabama's Legislature passed a group of tax breaks for the mill - on top of a $400 million incentives package designed to attract the steel mill and other major industries to the state.