Zombie Bill: Aerotropolis Tax Credit Rises Again
Last week, FOX 2 News in Saint Louis reported that the China Hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was essentially dead. The cause? “[T]he big reason seems to be the refusal of the Missouri legislature to approve tax credits for international freight forwarders to operate at Lambert.” Because the original proposal was a half-billion dollar warehouse-laden boondoggle, it is news to me that the $60 million in freight forwarder credits are now “the key.” Show-Me Institute Policy Analyst Audrey Spalding and I have long assumed Aerotropolis would come back in one form or another, and lo and behold, it most certainly has, in the form of . . . freight forwarder tax credits.
We have the same objections as we had last year. If shipping cargo out of Lambert makes economic sense, why do taxpayers need to subsidize it? Why not just lower taxes for all businesses? As the Aerotropolis proposal has shed more of its baggage en route to this latest forwarder credit, it is fascinating that the argument for the project has turned from “we need all of it!” to “just a little will do.” We may have simply just reached the “bargaining stage,” or alternatively are seeing the last-ditch attempts of Aerotropolis supporters to get something, anything out of this mess.
If the freight forwarder credit resurrection affirms anything, it is that tax credits need reform. Indeed, there is ample room to clip the tax credit waste and cut taxes, and we have talked about this issue again and again. It makes no sense to be adding programs to a tax credit system that is already bursting at the seams and rife with tax credits of dubious value. Tax credit redemptions are expected to reach nearly $700 million in 2013 — ranking right up there with this year’s gargantuan budget deficit. And yet, state officials continue trying to pick winners and losers.
Missourians can judge for themselves whether Missouri’s economic development status quo has served them well. It seems the legislature is more than happy to serve up more of the same.