Mo. senators scaling back airport cargo incentives

By DAVID A. LIEB

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Senate leaders significantly scaled back a tax credit proposal intended to spur international trade at the St. Louis airport on Tuesday, acquiescing to colleagues concerned about pouring hundreds of millions of tax dollars into the construction of warehouses without a firm guarantee it would benefit the state.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said his latest version of the legislation overhauling the state’s business incentives still could spur job creation, but it also could set up a special session showdown with the House by breaking the outlines of a deal Mayer struck earlier this summer with House leaders.

As originally proposed, the legislation offered up to $60 million in tax credits for companies that handle the logistics of exports and up to $300 million of tax credits for the construction of warehouses and manufacturing facilities near the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Supporters said the incentives were essential to transforming the airport into a hub for Chinese cargo planes and potentially for other international trade as well.

But debate on the legislation was delayed last week as some Republicans threatened to filibuster the bill. And concerns about the so-called “aerotropolis” tax credits remained evident Monday night among both Republican and Democratic senators as they publicly reviewed a cost-benefit analysis of the program prepared by the state Department of Economic Development. Majority Republicans then held a closed-door, late Monday night meeting at which they decided to pare back the incentives associated with the St. Louis airport.

The version debuted Tuesday by Mayer keeps the incentives for export handlers but eliminates the $300 million in tax credits earmarked for warehouses and manufacturing facilities built near the airport to handle products shipped into and out of the country. Mayer said those businesses still could apply for state incentives through other, existing state tax credit programs.

Senators further pared back the bill Tuesday by eliminating part of the funding source for the new tax credits.

As originally proposed this summer by Mayer and House leaders, the legislation would have repealed a tax credit for low-income elderly and disabled residents who live in rented homes. That move would have saved the state about $58 million annually, which could have been poured into the creation of new business incentives. But senators voted 17-16 Tuesday to pass an amendment by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, that keeps the tax credit intact for senior citizens and the disabled.

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