Want to Help Science Start-ups? Cut Their Taxes. While We’re At It, Cut Everyone’s.
Last year, I wrote about a Missouri circuit court’s finding that the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA) — a package of incentives for tech companies that the Missouri Legislature passed in 2011 — was unconstitutional as passed. On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court agreed.
MOSIRA had strong support of St. Louis-area biotech groups, and it was the lone accomplishment of the fall 2011 legislative session that was devoted to economic development. But lawmakers voted to approve MOSIRA that fall contingent on passage of a broader tax credit reform measure, which never happened. That led to a lawsuit by Missouri Roundtable for Life – which is concerned that MOSIRA could lead state funds to be used for stem cell or cloning research – and the program’s being overturned before ever launching.
In their opinion Tuesday, the justices wrote that the 2011 bill’s contingency clause violated the “single subject provision” of state law, and that the contingency clause could not be severed from the larger legislation, as it likely would not have passed without that clause in place.
Trivia: Do you know the bill upon which MOSIRA’s implementation was contingent? The answer: A package of tax credit legislation that included . . . the highly controversial Aerotropolis project. As went Aerotropolis, so went the 2011 session . . . and now, MOSIRA. Which is to say, nowhere.
Of course, there is an easy solution to avoid court fights such as this. Why not eliminate business taxation for all of Missouri’s companies? Stop picking winners and losers and set up a system of tax collection that incentivizes all businesses to stay in or come to Missouri. If the state wants to diversify its “investments” and support existing and emerging industries, why not tell all businesses, here and elsewhere, “We want you to invest in Missouri”? If the state did that, Missouri would, for once, force other states to respond to our pro-growth taxing proposals, rather than the other way around.