Economic development bill passes in General Assembly

Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 8:45 p.m. CDT; updated 4:39 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Two days and an evening rife with heated, drawn-out debate marked the progression of an economic development bill that wound its way through the Missouri General Assembly on Thursday.

The $66 million economic development bill legalizes ticket scalping, provides a tax credit for cattle ranchers, allows for urban redevelopment and bolsters Gov. Matt Blunt’s Quality Jobs Act.

The Senate passed the bill 25-7 late Wednesday and the House passed it with a 125-19 vote Thursday before returning it to the governor to be signed.

The economic development bill’s passage marks the end of a two-week special session convened by Blunt.

A more expensive version of the tax credit plan was approved during the last legislative session but Blunt vetoed that bill, citing its “excessive and unquantifiable expense to Missouri taxpayers.”

Blunt called for a special session, asking legislators to slim down the bill, including cutting out many amendments he said added to its cost.

The General Assembly also approved a bill allowing 802 Missouri bridges to be rebuilt. That plan lowers the insurance bond a contractor must purchase to complete renovations.

The Senate discussed the economic redevelopment bill for close to 10 hours Wednesday, with discussion mostly revolving around the Jobs Program and urban redevelopment, which some critics say solely benefit the St. Louis area.

Senators from rural districts attempted to modify the urban development provision, which requires developers to purchase large plots of land and make the associated tax credits applicable to more parts of the state.

Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, accused senators from rural areas of complaining about St. Louis and ignoring the $3 million beef tax credit included in the bill.

Attempts to cut out or limit the urban redevelopment provision were repeatedly defeated.

The beef tax, which was rarely mentioned and not hotly contested, gives Missouri farmers a tax credit for fattening cattle within the state instead of shipping them off for weight gain.

Cattle are commonly fattened in Western states, a move some lawmakers say takes money away from Missouri. One reason for the move could be the high price of corn used to feed cattle.

The bill gives a tax break to farmers who sell their cattle later in the fattening process, after they reach 450 pounds.

Steven Sapp, president of the Boone County Farm Bureau, said he was unaware of the bill’s beef tax provision.

“We haven’t talked about it in this county,” Sapp said.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, Boone County has 31,500 head of cattle, but Sapp said the numbers are relatively low compared to other counties.

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