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Lady Comets win state softball title October 25, 2014

Our Opinion: A piecemeal, contentious approach to redistribution

Governing involves the process of redistributing other people’s money.

An example of redistribution is the tax credit — the subject of the first bill approved by lawmakers this session and advanced to Gov. Jay Nixon.

Legislators overwhelmingly favored authorizing $3 million annually in state subsidizes to local governments and non-profit groups to attract sporting events.

A recommended approach to comprehensive, tax-credit reform apparently has been superseded by a more piecemeal process. For those keeping score, separate legislation to extend tax credits for food pantries and other charitable causes also was approved and sent to the governor prior to the upcoming spring break.

Supporters of the tax credits to lure sporting events contend they are needed if Missouri’s local governments and groups expect to compete with out-of-state venues, which dangle similar incentives. The host sites for events — such as college basketball tournaments and Olympic trials — draw visitors and boost economic development.

Opponents counter that the incentives are either unnecessary or violate a basic principle.

Rep. David Hinson, R-St. Clair, argued Missouri venues historically have hosted such events. “They’ve been doing this for years without incentives,” he pointed out.

And Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said: “There’s a fundamental principle of equality under the law that we’re violating when we pick and choose who we want to get tax cuts or tax breaks as far as economic development goes.”

An instigator of much Missouri tax-credit discussion is competition with neighboring Kansas, which now faces a projected budget shortfall.

During debate by Missouri lawmakers on a separate redistribution issue — an income tax cut tied to a sales tax hike — Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, complained: “There’s a race to the bottom that we’re going to win against Kansas.”

Our interest is not picking and choosing specific tax credits, but the potential pitfalls in the overall process.

First, we believe a comprehensive approach to tax credit reform is preferable to the piecemeal approach.

Second, following Kansas over the budget cliff is inadvisable.

Missouri lawmakers, however, are taking a piecemeal approach to tax incentives likely to escalate a border war with Kansas.

We engage in such a strategy at our mutual peril.

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