Mo. Senate approves tax credits compromise

Missouri senators voted Wednesday to authorize new tax credits aimed at attracting college sports tournaments to the state while also moving to cap the number of incentives available for refurbishing historical buildings.

The legislation also extends tax credits that go to charitable organizations, such as food pantries.

But while several senators cast the legislation as a compromise between tax credit supporters and those who want the incentives to be overhauled, members of the House appeared reluctant to consider the bill before the legislative session ends on Friday.

Senators voted 28-3 to attach new provisions onto House-approved legislation that would impose new requirements on state economic development officials who screen businesses requesting financial incentives.

The Senate measure authorizes up to $3 million tax credits aimed at helping attract amateur sporting events, such as NCAA basketball tournaments, to the state.

It also caps the state’s historical preservation tax credits at $75 million, down from the $110 million in such incentives that the state gives out each year. And it re-authorizes several tax credits that go to charitable organizations, such as food pantries, but requires those tax credits to be re-authorized each year.

The legislation now goes back to the House, which could opt to accept the Senate’s tax trade-off without changes or send the bill to negotiations between the two chambers.

The House sponsor, Rep. Jay Barnes, said he likely won’t move to do anything more with the bill. He said he thinks adding the tax credit measures could make the legislation unconstitutional because it now goes beyond the original purpose of the House measure.

“I’m not going to pick up a bill that I think is unconstitutional,” said Barnes, R-Jefferson City. “I tried to find those common-sense reforms that everyone should agree to. It shouldn’t get caught up in debates about tax credits.”

And while he said he had not yet seen the Senate version of the tax credits bill, House Majority Leader Tim Jones also said the $75 million cap on historical tax credits could be too low for his chamber.

“The House’s position has historically been $90 million,” said Jones, R-Eureka. “I don’t know why we would suddenly agree to do something different than what we’ve already agree to do.”

Disagreement about caps on such tax credits was one sticking point in negotiations over economic development measures during the Legislature’s special session last year.

Sen. Eric Schmitt said senators were more willing to accept a cap on the historical tax credits in order to get the sporting events tax credits approved before the negotiations on sites for NCAA competitions for the next six years begin this fall.

“The timing of the sporting events incentives is really critical in the bidding process,” said Schmitt, R-St. Louis County. “My fear is that we’re going to be locked out of that process.”

But even some senators had expressed reservations with the trade-off. Sen. Joe Keaveny said he thinks it is unfair to require the credits for charitable organizations to come before lawmakers every year while the sporting events groups do not.

“They’re struggling right now just to keep the shelves full and here we are pretty much giving the sports credits people free reign,” said Keaveny, D-St. Louis.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, offered a change to the measure that would make the two categories of tax credits sunset after the same amount of time. Senators rejected that proposal on a voice vote.

They also rejected, in a 28-3 vote, an amendment from Keaveny that would have done away with the new limit on historical tax credits and would keep in place the state’s current $140 million annual ceiling. Keaveny said he felt those tax credits were being unfairly singled out as targets for an overhaul.


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