Let Expired Agricultural Tax Credits Stay That Way
One of the better things to come from the 2021 Missouri legislative session was something that the legislature did NOT do: renew several agriculture-based Missouri tax credit programs. This is, of course, extremely concerning for the economic development officials who justify their jobs by the existence of such programs. Never mind the fact that these programs generally accomplish nothing and are an actively negative influence in most cases.
A Missouri Times article explains what the expired economic development tax credits are:
The New Generation Cooperative Incentive Tax Credit, Meat Processing Facility Investment Tax Credit, and Agricultural Product Utilization Contributor Tax Credit programs offered by the Missouri Agriculture and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) that sunset in 2021.
What kind of effect do they have? Well, that depends on whom you listen to. According to the Missouri Farm Bureau, the effects would have a larger impact than discovering a giant oil field in rural Missouri and turning Cuba, Paris, and Lebanon (MO) into the next Kuwait (note: there is no Missouri city named Kuwait). From a Farm Bureau commentary in favor of the programs (emphasis added):
The largest of these programs is the New Generation Cooperative Incentive. This tax credit helps investors draw in private investment for value-added processing. To date, $63 million in tax incentives have generated over $501 million in private investment.
For those of you keeping score at home, that statement claims an economic impact eight times the government investment. Whether you call it an economic multiplier, a cost-benefit analysis, or whatever, the claim that it generated an eightfold impact is absurd. Even the Missouri state economic development agency makes much lower economic impact claims for this credit (and their claims are also almost certainly way too high). If you are asking yourself if an obscure Missouri state agency funded with other people’s money is capable of creating an economic return eight times the cost of the program, the answer is no, it isn’t.
Government officials cannot predict the future (which often makes the credits useless), and are often influenced by political calculations (which is what can turn the credits from useless to harmful). Missouri should let these tax credits remain dead, and the same thing goes for the film tax credit (wasteful), the low-income housing tax credit (rampantly abused by developers), and just about every state and local tax credit program we have.
Investment in rural Missouri is absolutely needed. State tax credit programs are not the way to do it.