Gov. Nixon urges senators to pass economic development bill

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 5:16 p.m. CST; updated 10:25 a.m. CST, Friday, February 20, 2009
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon asked Missouri senators on Thursday to put a halt to their discussion about tax credit reform so that an economic development bill could be passed.

JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon asked Missouri senators to put a halt to their discussion about tax credit reform. The halt could push forward an economic development bill, Nixon said during a panel with the Missouri Press Association on Thursday.

The House has already passed the bill, but GOP opposition in the state Senate has halted its progression to the governor's desk amid concerns that the tax credits will not create the expected number of jobs and will benefit special interests.

"I think there's going to be a thorough and proper discussion about the efficacy of tax credits as economic development tools," Nixon said. "I do think I would like, if at all possible, for the Senate to take a week off from that discussion and go ahead and pass the bill that the House gave them."

The bill under consideration is geared toward providing tax credits to businesses that create new jobs under the Quality Jobs Act. It would also increase the cap on state-sponsored tax credits from $60 million to $120 million.

The bill's Republican sponsor in the Senate has said the measure could create up to 30,000 jobs in Missouri, but other GOP senators are questioning the accuracy of that figure.

President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, said he doubts that discussion will be put aside but that the bill may still be passed by mid-March.

"I'm absolutely confident we'll get it done, and it (the job creation bill and tax credit reform) will go together," he said. "I don't think we can separate those two issues."

State Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, said Missouri's economic development is limited to tax credits because the Missouri Constitution prohibits more direct forms of government-funded incentives for businesses.

"I don't think anyone's talking about limiting tax credits," Hobbs said, adding that it is a "dangerous time" to put a cap on one of the state's few resources for stimulating economic growth.

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