JEFFERSON CITY — Unwilling to acknowledge defeat Thursday, the Missouri House of Representatives sought more negotiation with senators over a package of business incentives that now seems all but dead.
Lawmakers have been meeting since early September in a special legislative session that is focused on a proposal to pare back some of Missouri's existing tax credits. It would also create new incentives for international shippers at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, computer data centers and certain other businesses. But the House and Senate, which are both led by Republicans, have been unable to agree on what to do.
The House voted Thursday to ask for a formal negotiating session with the Senate. But that doesn't seem likely to happen because the Senate has not scheduled additional sessions where votes could be taken and it decided this week not to seek further discussions. The special session would automatically end Nov. 5 under the state's constitution.
Several House members during debate Thursday were sharply critical of the Senate. House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said job creation is too important for lawmakers to give up, and Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said lawmakers would be neglecting their duties if there were no formal negotiations between the two chambers.
House Speaker Steven Tilley said the Senate has been deceitful and that he was lied to during earlier discussions when leaders from the two chambers were negotiating a bill. He said the House has done everything its leaders said would be done.
"My experience with the Senate so far has been that what they say and what they do are two different things," said Tilley, R-Perryville.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon called the session after House and Senate leaders declared this summer that they had reached an agreement. The deal disintegrated, and Nixon has urged the legislature to pass something soon or simply stop.
Earlier this week, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer decided not to pursue further negotiations with House leaders. Mayer, R-Dexter, said the differences between the two chambers were "irreconcilable" and that further talks were unlikely to work.
The House's decision to request more negotiation means the special session will continue into at least an additional week. The Senate previously had scheduled an informal session Tuesday, and Jones said that the special session effectively would be over if no action is taken then.
A main sticking point has been whether there should be a 2018 expiration date for a pair of current tax credits for the construction of low-income housing and the renovation of historic buildings. The Senate wants sunsets, arguing that they are needed to control costs. The House does not want sunsets, contending that they would let one senator kill a program through a filibuster.
The House gave first-round approval Thursday to a constitutional amendment that supporters hope eventually could dodge the roadblock of whether tax credits should expire. The measure would require a separate vote every four years on whether to continue each tax credit. The measure was approved by the House 101-25. It would need another vote before it could go to the Senate.