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28 July 2011

Stouffer: Governor Calls for Special Session

The top issue for most of us in the Missouri Legislature this year is more jobs for Missourians. We spent the regular session working toward this goal, but some believe the job is not fully complete. Now, we will come back in September and discuss further ideas for putting Missourians back to work.

As I have said in the past, I believe it is the private sector — not government — that makes jobs happen. The best thing that government can provide is the infrastructure to incubate economic growth and to get out of the way.

The main point of this year’s special session will be to address tax credit reform. During the regular session, time ran out on House Bill 116. This measure focused on tax credits, and also dealt with what has named “Aerotropolis,” a cargo hub proposal for Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. The idea is to make Missouri a major trading hub for the entire world; a move that supporters say would benefit all of Missouri, including those wanting to feed a hungry world with our farm products.

Tax credit reform could include the end of some tax credits and an expansion of others. There are several different ideas that have been floated, and I am sure there will be others by this fall’s special session. The biggest complaint about tax credits is that they are not subject to appropriations. In 1999, approximately $143 million in tax credits were redeemed. In 2010, that number jumped to approximately $521 million. Lawmakers have no control over this. Ironically, our budget gap for both Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 totaled around $500 million. If tax credits were not around, maybe our budget would be easier to deal with.

Aerotropolis has both supporters and opponents. Those in favor say the plan would boost the state’s economy and add jobs just about everywhere in Missouri. Those who are against say it would be a major expense that would cost more than it is worth. They make the argument, “If it is such a good idea, then investors would have already fronted the money for it.” We will see how the debate goes in September.

Currently, the plan is to hold the special session in conjunction with the annual veto session, since lawmakers will be in Jefferson City anyway. The special session, likely, could start the first week of September and continue for a second week. This would provide plenty of time to introduce a bill, hold hearings, debate it on the floor and have something delivered to the governor for his signature.

No matter what, we need to get folks back to work in Missouri. The recession and slow economy have gone on for too long. We were able to get a lot accomplished, in terms of providing for job creation and economic development, during the regular session. Now, we will be returning to continue to stay on this focus.

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