Simple Questions: Where Do You Stand On Tax Credits? And What Would You Do About Them?
As the summer has progressed, substantive and thoughtful policy discussions appear to have finally broken back onto the political stage — a stage too often left vacant when “business as usual” returns to the state capitol and elsewhere. On TV and in print, the conversation about the state’s future has reached a fevered pitch, and as such, I think now is a good time to again revisit the question of tax credit reform in Missouri.
As Christine Harbin, Audrey Spalding, Michael Rathbone, myself, and many others have documented over the years, development tax credits have grown into a multi-billion dollar enterprise in the state, and yet Missouri’s economic fortunes have continued to decline despite this flush spending. This culminated with the state losing a U.S. House seat after the 2010 Census. Missouri is not keeping up with the rest of the country. In very real and disturbing ways, Missouri is being left behind.
The examples of policymakers seemingly failing to recognize the problem are wide-ranging, from the half-billion dollar Aerotropolis proposal that collapsed in 2011 to the revelation that even a country club was able to jump into the development tax credit conga line. The country club was able to get a cool million dollars in tax credits from the state for its trouble. And just this month, the Missouri state auditor issued a “blistering” report on the Quality Jobs Tax Credit program, which has promised that more than 45,000 jobs would be brought to the state through the program since 2005. The actual number of jobs the state says were created through the program? A fraction of the promise: 7,176. That first number is great for politicians at press conferences. That second number — the number that actually counts — is bad news for Missouri workers.
With all of that understood, I wonder: Do Missouri’s policymakers believe development tax credits are a real and serious problem in the state? What would they do to reform them? Or would they, to the state’s detriment, be OK with another round of “business as usual” in Jefferson City?