Taxes for Thee, But Not for Me (Part 2)
Over two years ago, Show-Me published a piece about how Missouri corporations such as Burns & McDonnell advocate for higher taxes while seeking special dispensation from paying their own. Members of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce regularly support tax increases despite—or maybe because of—the fact that much of their members’ taxes are returned to them or abated altogether.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Burns & McDonnell is at it again, benefitting from a little-debated tax credit expansion passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor that could net them $300 million over 15 years. The Kansas City Star, in a piece worth reading in its entirety, reports that:
Since 2011, Missouri has issued $39 million in tax credits to Burns & McDonnell, according to state records. The company can receive credits for every 25 new jobs it creates and $1 million it invests in its headquarters.
The expanded credit, inserted into the economic development package with almost no debate, will cover not just its physical assets but investment in cloud computing services. It would allow the company to claim 8 times the value of a software license.
Hand-picking which companies have their taxes reduced puts a great deal more power in the legislature, encourages businesses to invest in lobbyists rather than in their core competency, and creates an unjust situation where businesses that don’t receive handouts subsidize their competition through the tax code. If taxes are too high, lower them for everyone—don’t play favorites.
Perhaps most importantly, such tax schemes are so poorly managed that they hardly work. It should not be surprising to learn that the men and women elected to local and statewide office are imbued with no magical forecasting powers to divine the growth industries of tomorrow. It’s a crapshoot.
As a result, Missourians are left holding the tax bill while corporate cronies and their amen chorus in the legislature congratulate themselves. It is unjust, unworthy of the Show-Me State, and an indelible stain on the records of those who would call themselves small-government, free-market conservatives.