Anti-Historic Tax Credit Gang Lacking Consistent Records

by Michael R. Allen

Here’s what some Missouri state senators are saying about the successful state historic rehabilitation tax credit that they are trying to destroy (the Senate will take up one proposal today):

“Tall hogs don’t like to move off the trough. This process will move the tall hogs off the trough.” –Senator Matt Bartle (R) quoted in the Columbia Tribune (March 12, 2009)

“Why is it that tax credits only benefit big businesses when most Missourians work for small businesses?” –Senator Jason Crowell (R) quoted in the Kansas City Star (March 24, 2009)

Do they think we have short memories in Missouri?

The economic development bill (SB1) passed during the special session of the Missouri General Assembly in August 2007 contained many provisions. One of the most publicized new tax credit programs created by that bill was the Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credit (DALATC), a $95 million program with annual appropriations of no more than $12.5 million. DALATC is available to developers in economically depressed areas of the state who are assembling projects of more than 75 acres — i.e., big developers. The credit can be issued before development has started, and in fact contains few provisions to guarantee development would occur. The DALATC idea isn’t bad but the version that passed is weak public policy.

Senator Frank Barnitz (D) proposed an amendment to eliminate DALATC from HB1, and his amendment failed 8-25. Those supporting the amendment were Senators Barnitz, Maida Coleman (D), Joan Bray (D), Wes Shoemeyer (D), Chuck Purgason (R), Brad Lager (R), Matt Bartle (R) and Yvonne Wilson (D). All other Senators voted to retain the new program with an annual cost to the state of at least $12.5 million and provisions that all but state that the program would only benefit the city of St. Louis.

Among those who voted against removing this section were Senator Luann Ridgeway (R) and Sen. Jason Crowell (R), who are leading the current charge against the state historic rehabilitation tax credit along with their more consistent colleagues Lager, Bartle and Purgason. When Ridgeway and Crowell lecture us on the historic tax credit costing too much, benefiting the big cities and not producing enough economic return they aren’t explaining why less than two years ago they voted to create a new development tax credit with no guarantee for job creation that probably will be used exclusively in St. Louis and Kansas City.

When the final vote on HB 1 was taken, Bartle was the only member of the current gang pushing to cut the state historic rehab tax credit who voted “nay.” A lot of “tall hogs” were served up a big meal by HB 1, and Crowell, Purgason, Crowell, Ridgeway and Lager helped feed them. These senators voted in favor of a bill that dramatically increased the cost of tax credit programs to the state. Now they want us to forget that?

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