by Michael R. Allen
According to the Post-Dispatch, Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard (R) won’t accept a cap on the historic rehabilitation tax credits less than $150 million. That’s great news. As Democratic Governor Jay Nixon maintains his silence, we have a prominent Republican come forward with some support for one of the state’s most effective and democratically available economic development tools. Former Governor Matt Blunt (R) was a strong supporter of the historic tax credit, as is Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R). While the attack on the program is coming mainly from Republicans using typical conservative anti-city rhetoric, other prominent conservative Republicans support the program (and, admittedly, some others of dubious utility).
While a $150 million cap could still cause a competitive environment in which big developers will have an advantage over homeowners, it’s a better stance than silence. State Senator Jeff Smith (D) has raised the stakes by calling for a cap no less than $170 million, the amount of credits issued in 2008, and Speaker Richard says that there is room to negotiate with his figure and Smith’s. That is an encouraging dialogue, although the need for any cap has not been adequately justified by its proponents, whose arguments are more arguments against the historic tax credit itself.
Speaker Richard told reporters that “I will have the last word on tax credits.” I wish that were true, but the last word comes at the desk of the governor when he decides whether to veto or approve an economic development bill sent to him by the legislature. What will the last word on historic tax credits be? Nixon has provided few clues.