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Our Opinion: Panel answers the call ignored by battling lawmakers

In response to a call for members of a tax credit review panel to reconvene, a collective “thanks, but no thanks” would be a understandable.

The Bi-Partisan Tax Credit Review Commission has been treated shabbily.

The panel’s recommendations largely have been ignored by state lawmakers, who have been locked in a stalemate for two consecutive years that included two regular sessions and a special session.

Some background is helpful.

Amid the economic downturn, questions were raised about the efficiency and effectiveness of the 61 tax credit programs offered by state government.

Tax credits are designed as economic development tools pertaining to agriculture, the environment, financial services, low income housing, historic preservation and other areas.

In response, Gov. Jay Nixon in 2010 created the review panel, which included 27 business, community and legislative leaders from around the state.

The commission in December 2010 issued a 54-page report and concluded Missouri could save $220 million in the next five years by eliminating 28 tax credit programs and improving the operations of 30 others.

Those recommendations were sidelined while lawmakers fought on the economic development battlefield, largely divided about whether to scale back tax breaks or offer new incentives.

While the battle raged, the use of tax credits has escalated.

In calling for the review panel to reconvene, Nixon noted the cost to the state reached an all-time high during fiscal year 2012. The state this year waived $629 million in revenues through tax credits, up from $524 million in 2010.

We don’t fault the governor for issuing the plea. An opportunity may exist with changes in the legislative battlefield as new combatants are elected and others leave.

Consequently, we encourage the review commissioners to reconvene and persevere.

But, mostly, we urge lawmakers to stop kicking the proverbial tax-credit can down the road.

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