Last month, we told you that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had called for a special legislative session of the Missouri General Assembly to focus on job creation and the passage of an omnibus economic development bill. Despite the announced compromise that precipitated the special session, the House and Senate have been unable to work together and have instead renewed their long-standing feud over key issues.
To date, the only bill of note with regard to economic development that the House and Senate have approved is the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, or MOSIRA. MOSIRA would provide grants, loans and investments in science and innovation funded through the incremental growth in tax revenue generated by employees working at the targeted business.
For those hoping to see a broader economic incentive package gain approval, however, the legislative landscape is much darker. But is there now reason to be hopeful?
The Senate quickly went to work on their revisions to the proposed compromise language for the omnibus economic development bill. The version of Senate Bill 8 that was passed by the Senate on September 14th contained sweeping changes to the various incentives in the bill. For example, in the proposed compromise the so-called “Aerotropolis” program was designed to offer up to $60 million in tax credits to air freight forwarders over eight years and $300 million in real estate development tax credits over sixteen years to help develop an international trading hub in St. Louis. The Senate-approved version of the bill removed the real estate development credits completely, leaving only the $60 million portion available for freight forwarders. The historic rehabilitation tax credit program, which would have its annual cap lowered from $140 million to $80 million under the compromise language, was also tweaked by the Senate. Senators inserted a novel procedure that would progressively lower the annual tax credit cap for large projects by $4 million each fiscal year, while correspondingly increasing a pool of discretionary funds subject to annual appropriations by up to $4 million.
The House of Representatives was already on edge after the end of the regular session in May, when the economic development bill died on the last day of the regular session. House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R – Eureka) went so far as to tweet that Senate Republicans were “legislative terrorists,” guilty of not passing any of the economic development bills that the House approved. With such frustration still lingering, it came as no shock that the House took issue with the changes the Senate made to Senate Bill 8. On September 23rd, the House adjourned with Senate Bill 8 stuck in the House Economic Development Committee. As a result of the renewed impasse, the promised package of new economic incentives and tax credit reform appeared dead once again.
When the House and Senate walked away, however, they did not adjourn sine die, which would have meant abandoning the special session completely. Leaders in both chambers instead stated their intention to hold periodic technical sessions to keep the special session alive in hopes that the Senate would come back to the table so that a new compromise could be reached.
Then this past Wednesday, House Speaker Steven Tilley (R – Perryville) and Rep. Jones confirmed that House Republicans plan to meet to discuss the legislation. According to the Associated Press, Jones said he expects revised legislation to be available to lawmakers on Monday. The House Economic Development Committee then would vote on the bill Wednesday, House Republicans would caucus privately that evening, and the bill would reach the House floor for debate the following day. “I think there is a strong sentiment in this chamber to get something done,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported that the Senate is, at least outwardly signaling their willingness to continue working on this legislation with the House, albeit with some less-than-congenial undertones. Sen. Jason Crowell (R- Cape Girardeau), a leading proponent of restrictive tax credit reform, said that hasn’t even seen a bill from the House side. “We are the Show-Me State,” Crowell said. “We’re waiting for the House to show us something.”
Does this mean that business owners or others potentially benefited by the array of incentive programs at stake have reason for optimism? Taking a queue from the Senator from Cape, perhaps it’s better to wait for both the House and the Senate to show us something first.