The St. Louis Post Dispatch gets it all wrong when they title a recent article: “Jobs incentives in peril as special legislative session begins in Missouri.” True, Missouri’s special session started this week and, along with moving the date of the presidential primary and repealing a new law regarding teachers and students on Facebook, taxes are on the table.
But the tax incentives supposed to spur employment and economic development aren’t in any real peril. The state of Missouri seems to be chugging along without these controversial incentives, one of which would cost the state $360 million in an attempt to make the St. Louis airport a hub for freight between China and the Midwest.
No, the state’s property tax credit, designed to specifically help low income renters who are seniors and/or disabled, is the program in real peril. Some in the legislature and now Governor Nixon are proposing to eliminate this credit entirely. The revenue gain from eliminating the property tax credit for these renters is $57 million, by far the largest cut proposed in the legislation.
Last year, Nixon’s Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission proposed eliminating the credit, saying the credit "doesn't really do anything.” But tell that to a woman who’d been trying to prepare her meals on a camp stove. Brenda Procter, a University of Missouri extension specialist in personal finance, tells of informing this client she could expect a $600 credit and “she almost crushed me with a hug. She said, Oh, my God, I can buy a stove.”
Yes, this is the program where lawmakers decided to go looking for big revenue savings while simultaneously pursuing dubious tax incentives to make St. Louis some kind of “aerotropolis.”
There is some evidence the sponsor of the repeal bill might be rethinking complete elimination of the credit, however. Senator Chuck Purgason recently said: "Republicans are always portrayed as taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and we didn't want to do that.”
Let’s hope Missouri Republicans and the legislature as a whole defy that stereotype and do right by the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Photo via Missouri News Horizon Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0