TIF Reform Legislation Races Into the Homestretch, But the Clock Is Ticking
Thanks to robust bipartisan support and assisted by a strangely-timed development proposal, the Missouri legislature is on the verge of passing a package of long-overdue tax increment financing (TIF) reforms. With only hours left in the legislative session, however, it remains an open question whether the House will send the bill to the governor in time.
Let me tell you why this reform is so needed.
The main thrust of House Bill 1434 is to curb the rampant TIF abuse that residents in the Saint Louis area have seen recently, including the plan to subsidize a Stan Kroenke development only weeks after Kroenke moved the Saint Louis Rams out of town. With that incident in mind, most of the bill's language deals with three counties in particular—Saint Charles, Jefferson, and Saint Louis counties—and the manner in which TIFs can be enacted and administered. For those reasons alone, the bill has merit.
But there's another element that also deserves to be highlighted. Tucked a little deeper into the legislation is language that would make TIF committee activities more transparent to the public. More specifically:
It shall be the policy of the state [emphasis mine] that each redevelopment plan or project of a municipality be carried out with full transparency to the public. The records of the tax increment financing commission including, but not limited to, commission votes and actions, meeting minutes, summaries of witness testimony, data, and reports submitted to the commission, shall be retained by the governing body of the municipality that created the commission and shall be made available to the public in accordance with chapter 610.
For those wondering, Chapter 610 of the Missouri revised statutes contains the state's "Sunshine Law," and you'll find a parallel "policy of the state" language there as well.
It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.
Transparency is an effective disinfectant, and for that reason alone this TIF bill is important. TIF reform been a long-standing priority here at the Show-Me Institute; that the legislature may finally take a substantive step in the right direction is both exciting and gratifying. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.