Our Opinion: Unfinished business becoming legislative specialty

Special legislative sessions are becoming less special and more common.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday called a special session to begin in September. His announcement came one day after legislative leaders announced an accord on an economic incentive plan.

The plan calls for incentives for high-tech enterprises and international trade, to be paid by scaling back a number of existing tax credits.

Tax credit reform popped up on state government radar as a way to curb state spending and balance the budget. The governor in the summer of 2010 named a 25-member tax credit review panel to study Missouri’s 61 tax credits and report recommendations to lawmakers before they convened for the regular session in January.

After kicking the tax-credits can down the Capitol hallways for more than four months during the regular session, legislative leaders now say they are ready to act.

The action, however, is not simply to curb tax credits, but to use the savings to afford new ones. Legislative leaders agree, however, a net savings will result.

New proposals for the special session listed by both the governor and legislative leaders are:

• Incentives to encourage data centers to locate in the state.

• The “Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act,” designed to attract high-tech jobs.

• “Aerotropolis,” a proposal to convert Lambert International Airport in St. Louis into an international trade hub.

Other provisions were cited separately by the Democratic governor and by Republican leaders.

Despite some division, the governor and legislative leaders shared excitement about special session prospects that would:

• “... leverage our unique Missouri assets and seize unique Missouri opportunities whose time has come.” Gov. Jay Nixon

• “ ... couple more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer savings by reducing, eliminating or requiring timely mandatory review of various tax credits, with creating new incentives to keep and bring jobs to our state.” Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer.

• “... save taxpayers billions of dollars while securing the future of innovative and financially responsible tax incentive programs to keep and relocate business to Missouri.” House Speaker Steven Tilley.

We’ll withhold our enthusiasm until we hear discussion and debate. Our initial reaction is: What took so long?

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