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For Retail Developers, Tax Cuts Could be Limited

April 15, 1998
By: Caroline Noel
State Capital Bureau
An amendment to a House economic development plan could dramatically impact where St. Louis retailers decide to locate. Caroline Noel reports from Jefferson City.

Kansas City Representative Henry Rizzo's annual economic plan usually reads as a laundry list of special tax breaks for businesses. For retail developers, the bonanza could be ending.

Currently, retail developers benefit from Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, that provides tax cuts for businesses to locate in blighted areas. Since the definition of "blighted" is not specifically defined, retailers are able to get tax breaks almost anywhere they locate. For example, the St. Louis Galleria and West County Mall, both in affluent suburbs, received substantial tax breaks when they expanded their malls.

St. Louis County Representative Lana Stokan argues this not only deprives downtown areas of needed business, but also strips various counties' coffers of sought after tax dollars.

Actuality:The developers have used what's legally in the statute to have a tax break by pitting communities against each other for who can give the best tax break."
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Stokan's amendment would give tax cuts only to those retailers located in: federal enterprise zones; areas where the majority of residents have incomes 75% below the Missouri median; or areas that have been "under-utilized" for at least three years.

Representative Henry Rizzo, sponsor of the bill and Chair of the House Commerce Committee, plans to fight the amendment vigorously.

Actuality:Retail is the centestone of TIF when you start prohibiting retail or any function at the state level then developers are going to go to another state."
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Rizzo has the power to strip the amendment from his bill, although he says he would prefer to ask the House for a second vote on the issue. Caroline Noel, the Capitol.


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