Tax credit bill faces opposition in Senate
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Tax credit bill faces opposition in Senate

Date: February 17, 2009
By: Valerie Insinna
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 45 and HB 191

JEFFERSON CITY - A job-creation plan endorsed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon ran into opposition from a group of Republican state senators during session Tuesday.

Despite being sponsored by a fellow Republican, other GOP senators questioned whether tax credits specified in the bill would achieve their expected results of job creation and expanding Missouri's economy.

"We have become drunk on tax credits," said the GOP candidate for state treasurer last year -- Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville. 

"We're switching over to the philosophy of Leona Helmsley when it comes to our tax credit policy," said Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville.  "Taxes are for the little people, is what Leona said. Missouri doesn't need to be fashioning our tax credit policy on the basis of a known felon and tax cheat."

A section of the bill would double the cap on the Quality Jobs Act, which issues tax credits for business expansion, from $60 million to $120 million.

The bill has already passed though the House amid complaints from some Democrats that the bill was not a bipartisan effort and did not include amendments that would have increased accountability for government assistance.

Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said the bill that he sponsored could create 30,000 jobs.

"We are not a job generator, but what we do and what our task is is to create a climate so that our state's people can create jobs," he said.

His job-creation figures were challenged by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, who said he would bet his house that the bill would not create 30,000 jobs.

"You say that it might create 30,000 jobs; it might do this," he said. "I know of one thing we're actually certain it would do, and that is that you're spending over $100 million of hard-earned taxpayer money, and I want to know what we're going to get from it. What is the return on the investment?"

Crowell said the bill favored special interests, citing three tax credits within the bill that would benefit mines. He said the bill needed to include small businesses and force tax credits to go through the appropriations process.

"We are picking winners and losers everyday in Jefferson City," he said. "Why should a guy that owns a lot of old mines be sales tax exempt as opposed to a guy in Cape Girardeau who owns a bicycle shop?"

Crowell's arguments were challenged by Pearce.  "What's the option, doing nothing?" Pearce asked. "Our unemployment level is 7.6 percent.  We're losing jobs.  Our state needs a shot in the arm."

But Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, said increasing tax credits has become a national game in which states compete against each other.

"No sooner do we get it [the job creation bill] passed and Kansas rushes off and they make their program richer and Arkansas goes and makes their's richer," he said. "And guess what? Next year we're back where we started."

Bartle said the state should give tax breaks to all businesses rather than giving tax credits to a selected few.

"We would be sending a signal to all businesses: we're staying out of your business," he said.

Ridgeway said the majority of her constituents would not benefit from what she called "designer" tax credits included in the bill, which serve special interest groups and not Missourians.

"They belong to the people who can afford the lobbyists, they belong to the people who can afford accountants, they belong to the people who afford lawyers," she said.



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