Regarding Missouri’s New Tax Credit Review Commission
Now that the $150 million incentive package for Ford has passed, it’s apparently time to reverse positions and talk tough on tax credits again. On Wednesday, the governor created a commission that is supposed to evaluate the effectiveness and return on investment for each of Missouri’s tax credit programs.
rent seekers tax credit supporters are critical of the new committee. According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (emphasis added):
While the commission does include several prominent tax credit advocates, […] it lacks any representatives from small town Main Street groups, community development organizations or historic preservation groups, “all of whom have firsthand experience in how well the program works for the average citizen,” the [Coalition for Historic Preservation and Economic Development’s] press release reads.
Judging from the list of people on the committee, I don’t foresee many calls for scaling back these programs. Not only does the committee include bureaucrats and politicians, who have an incentive to grow the size of government, it includes businessmen whose companies have been issued tax credits. The committee includes a member from Hallmark, in Kansas City, which has received $8,657,730 in tax credits from the state government since 2000, according to the “Show-Me: Tax Credits” application. There is also a member from Commerce Bank in Saint Louis, which received $5,401,975 in historic tax credits in 2002. Legacy group investments received $183,586 in historic preservation credits in 2003. In addition, many other members come from the real estate industry, which would likely benefit from increased construction activity.
As I communicated to the Missouri Watchdog, I applaud the effort to review these programs, but I am skeptical that this commission will accomplish anything, given that the governor continues to dole out tax credits to his favored few (e.g., Ford, IBM, sugar substitute producers, data centers, filmmakers, etc.).
We live in a world of second-best options, and a review process is more desirable than nothing. The optimal solution would be to cut these incentive programs altogether, because they distort the playing field.
If the governor were serious about stimulating productive economic growth in Missouri, he would eliminate the programs entirely and return the money to taxpayers to spend on their own. People tend to spend their own money better than they do other people’s money, after all.