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Columbia Missourian

2 state treasurer candidates back use of tax credits

By Emily Coleman
September 12, 2008 | 7:30 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two candidates for Missouri treasurer agreed Friday that tax credits should continue to be used for economic development.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, and Rep. Clint Zweifel, D-St. Louis County, spoke at a debate sponsored by the Missouri Press Association.

The state has several tax credit programs to promote economic development through business expansion that adds new jobs or assists development in economically distressed area.

Zweifel stressed the need to use tax credits for the various state programs.

"I view (tax credits) for my own philosophy as a tool in the toolbox," Zweifel said. "So, in other words, credit, investments in higher education, investments in early and elementary childhood education, business climate: Those are all different tools in the toolbox."

The candidates both said they feel transparency is necessary for trust to be built between taxpayers and the government.

"For me, what's most is important is that there is accountability and oversight," Lager said. "All too often, what happens is that once the tax credit is passed, there is never a process by which the General Assembly ever comes back and actually reviews (the tax credit's effectiveness)."

The candidates also agreed the state's college savings program is a good way to get parents saving for their children's education. Lager said the Missouri program is one of the best in the nation and is "a step in the right direction." The Missouri higher education savings program, or MOST, offers state and federal tax deductions to make saving for college easier and more affordable for parents.

Zweifel said he favors allowing parents to participate in savings programs in any state they choose to, and he voiced a concern about high costs because of fees. Missouri allows parents to invest in other state programs if the parents qualify for those programs.

He said, the fees for the adviser portion of the plan are some of the highest in the country.

Treasurer Sarah Steelman has promoted terror-free investment with a program that went into effect July 2006. Lager said he wants to encourage the private sector to do the same.

"I don't believe that our money should be invested in funds that help aid countries or entities that buy bullets to shoot at our men and women overseas," Lager said.

Treasurer candidate Rod Farthing of the Constitution Party did not participate in the debate. He said the Missouri Press Association did not invite him to participate.