Senate committee approves economic development bill

Monday, August 27, 2007 | 10:08 p.m. CDT; updated 9:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Religious community leaders, Missouri farmers and spokespeople from almost every major state sports team converged on the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Local Government committee Monday asking legislators to approve a statewide tax break bill during the special session.

The full Senate will debate the bill on Tuesday.

The economic proposal, a down-sized remnant of a bill Gov. Matt Blunt declined to sign into law, has four key parts:

  • A quality jobs program that would bring higher paying jobs to low income areas.
  • Tax breaks for urban redevelopment — primarily in the St. Louis area.
  • A tax break for beef ranchers to encourage the industry to fatten cattle within the state.
  • The legalization of ticket scalping.

Blunt rejected the original proposal in July and called the legislature into a special session to reach a compromise on a pared-down version of the bill, citing the high fiscal cost of the bill as being detrimental to the state.

While the majority of those who spoke at the committee hearing were in favor of the bill, Tom Kruckemeyer, chief economist of Missouri Budget Project, said his analysis of the bill being considered showed the state would be unable to afford the tax breaks by 2010. He said the proposed bill is too broad and should be narrowed back to the original quality jobs program.

“You contribute to the continued erosion of the general revenue tax base,” Cricketer said. “Look at the general tax revenue situation down the road, the state looks like beyond fiscal year 2008, the fiscal situation looks pretty bleak.”

The urban redevelopment in St. Louis has raised many concerns because some say the bill gives tax breaks to only one person, a developer who has already bought land in the area.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said concerns that the tax break will make one man rich are unfounded because the St. Charles County developer, Paul McKee, is already wealthy and is taking all the risk upon himself.

St. Louis area community leaders said the plan is the smartest development plan for the area in 50 years.

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Jeanette Mott Oxford August 28, 2007 | 11:02 a.m.

I am not reassured by Sen. Crowell's comments. Seems that's the problem with House Bill 1 - it contains many "incentives" for folks who are already wealthy and who do not need tax breaks in order to invest and receive a good return on their investment. Corporate welfare seems the opposite of the "free market magic" that so many of my GOP colleagues tout, so why all this support for HB 1?

Could the campaign donations that are flowing freely from many parties who stand to benefit have anything to do with it? The pay to play system that is currently in place may be the greatest threat to the health of our society and our democracy.

I have discovered that Mr. McKee is not alone in neglecting properties, operating in secrecy, and using the St. Louis City Forestry Dept. as a maintenance crew. Obviously some real reform is needed in how the Mayor's office and the Board of Aldermen relates to developers in the City of St. Louis. I hope Mr. McKee, and others, will invest in our St. Louis communities, as we are well worth investing in. But transparency in government and responsibility for care of properties should be the norm, not the exception.

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