UPDATE: Missouri Republicans press for business tax breaks

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 3:45 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon pledged Wednesday to call a special session to overhaul the state's business incentives after legislative leaders outlined a plan that would reward international trade and high-tech companies while scaling back existing aid for developers of homes and historic buildings.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste confirmed the Democratic governor's plans to call a special session just moments after Republican House and Senate leaders held a news conference announcing that legislative negotiators had agreed on a business-incentive plan. The lawmakers urged Nixon to summon them back to the Capitol to approve the plan.

Without mentioning specific details of the Republican legislative plan, Nixon embraced its general approach.

"By working together in a bipartisan way, we've taken another important step toward passing a major job-creation package in a fiscally responsible manner," Holste said in an e-mailed statement. "The governor intends to call the General Assembly into special session to focus on passing a bipartisan jobs package and moving our economy forward."

The governor's office and lawmakers have been working — sometimes together, sometimes independently — since the legislative session ended in mid-May to craft a package that would authorize new business incentives while ending or reducing some of Missouri's existing tax credits.

The deal touted Wednesday by legislators would authorize tax breaks to attract international shippers to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where China Cargo Airlines currently is considering establishing a hub. It also would create incentives for science and technology companies, computer-based data storage centers and big-time amateur sporting events. And it would revamp existing programs so Missouri could offer incentives to retain companies being enticed by other states, a provision particularly intended counteract Kansas' efforts to lure companies from Kansas City.

To offset the new business incentives, the plan put forth by Republican legislative leaders would eliminate some existing tax credits and scale back the amount of money offered under other programs. For example, tax credits for the renovation of historic buildings would be capped at $90 million annually — down from the current $140 million cap. Limits also would be set on tax credits for low-income housing developments, and both programs would be set to expire on Aug. 28, 2018.

The reductions in existing tax credits are projected to more than offset the creation of additional tax breaks. Legislative leaders said their package could save the state around $1.5 billion over 15 years.

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