WHAT OTHERS SAY: Lawmakers' stalemate escalates costs to state

Friday, September 14, 2012 | 12:57 p.m. CDT

We’ve adapted to a wait-and-see attitude on one of the governor’s 2013 priorities, largely because we’ve waited since 2010 and seen little action.

The priority is reforming the 61 tax credit programs offered by state government.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday addressed members of a reconvened Tax Credit Review Commission, which he created in 2010.

The renewed urgency arises because the cost of tax incentives reached an all-time high during fiscal year 2012. The state waived $629 million in revenues through tax credits for the fiscal year, up from $524 million in 2010.

The review commission, however, was not derelict.

The panel did its duty, issuing a 54-page report in December 2010 that concluded Missouri could save $220 million in the next five years by eliminating 28 tax credit programs and improving the operations of 30 others.

Lawmakers took those recommendations and arrived at a stalemate that has continued through the 2011 and 2012 regular sessions, as well as a 2011 special session convened largely to address economic development issues.

On Wednesday, the day lawmakers gathered for the annual veto session, both the Democratic governor and a local Republican lawmaker were talking tax credits.

Rep. Jay Barnes, chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability, announced the panel will review the Missouri Quality Jobs program and other tax credits when the Legislature convenes for its regular session in January.

Although we appreciate the tenacity of the governor and local lawmaker on this issue, both presuppose they will they retain their seats in state government.

A potential obstacle is the November election, when Nixon will be challenged by Republican Dave Spence and Barnes will face Democrat Thomas Minihan in what now is the renumbered 60th District.

Tax credit reform is vital to state government. It was vital in 2010 and will remain so in 2013.

We understand lawmakers are at odds over questions of whether to scale back tax breaks or offer new incentives.

The problem with the protracted legislative stalemate and our wait-and-see attitude is that while inertia continues, the cost to the state escalates.

Copyright Jefferson City News Tribune. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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