Hefty tax credit bill grows with amendments
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Hefty tax credit bill grows with amendments

Date: April 11, 2007
By: Cliff Ainsworth
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 327

JEFFERSON CITY - When Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, opened debate over a hefty tax credit bill Wednesday afternoon by saying, "Let the games continue," he wasn't fully aware of what those "games" would entail.

The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly by the House in February, contains a laundry list of tax credits reflecting the efforts of various special interests to get a piece of the state's budget surplus.  That list only expanded throughout the evening Wednesday, as senators offered 29 amendments to the bill. 

Twenty-five of the amendments were adopted, including fuel tax credits for school buses and farmers, incentives for airlines to start offering flights to the UK from Missouri and unrelated language that would legalize the scalping of sporting event tickets.  With the amendments attached, the bill was passed by voice vote.

Hours into the debate, Griesheimer was forced to remove tax credits for venture capital investments when an amendment that would have prevented the credits from being used for embryonic stem cell research bogged down discussion.

Offered by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, the amendment drew criticism from Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, who said it was the latest example of how legislators this year have "run away kicking and screaming" from supporting potentially disease-curing research.  Graham complained about the shift away from such research in favor of agricultural research.

"We're going to have the healthiest pigs in the nation, but we'll do nothing for the 5.5 million human beings in the state," Graham said.

When Griesheimer saw that the debate over embryonic stem cell research had the potential for completely derailing the bill, he removed the venture capital tax credits altogether, nullifying Bartle's amendment.

"I guess when all this started I had no idea we would get to where we are right now," Griesheimer said.  "It seems like every time we go somewhere we get into this fight. It's getting old."

With the venture capital credits gone, the bill was able to move forward, but not without any concern over its price tag.

"I was not sent down here by special interests," said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville.  "I have had it with the drunken spending we are doing in this building."  Lager criticized not only the tax credits added to the bill, but also spending on state programs.

The bill itself includes increased tax credits for the Quality Jobs Program that is designed to encourage job creation, an exemption for manufacturers on utilities sales taxes as well as increased tax credits for movie production.  The total amount of the bill's credits is unclear as it moves to conference committee between the House and Senate.