Mo. Senate delays debate on business incentives

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A divided Missouri Senate scuttled a debate expected Thursday on a proposed overhaul of Missouri’s tax credits and business incentives, deciding instead to spend several more days studying the issues before opening debate next Tuesday.

The postponement came after majority Republicans met behind closed doors Thursday morning, airing concerns both about the speed with which a special legislative session was progressing and the particular details of the couple-hundred page bill that would pare back some of Missouri’s existing tax credits while creating new incentives for certain businesses.

“There’s been issues in Washington, D.C. about bills ... and members of the legislative bodies not having the opportunity to read through that bill and study it,” Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said while announcing the delay. “A bill of this importance and magnitude needs the attention of each member of the body.”

Along with allowing more time to read the legislation and work out potential compromises, the delay will give senators a chance to review a requested Department of Economic Development analysis on the projected costs and benefits of a proposal offering up to $360 million in tax credits to promote international cargo trade at the St. Louis airport. The so-called “China hub” or “aerotropolis” is one of the focal points of the session — and also one of its more contentious proposals.

The delay was praised by several Republican senators who have expressed concern about the legislation, including Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, who threatened a filibuster and roused sleeping senators by requesting a quorum call very early Thursday morning.

Yet not everyone was pleased by the delay.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, who is a physician, compared the tax incentive legislation to an elderly patient with a tumor who is likely to die but whose family nonetheless opts for additional chemotherapy to extend the person’s life for a few more days.

“The tumor here is aerotropolis, and I believe the chemotherapy we’re doing is costing us about $25,000 a day — to keep this alive a few more days,” said Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, referencing an estimate of how much it costs daily for the Legislature to be in session.

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