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18 August 2011

Stouffer: The Special Session Is Supposed to Be Coming

When lawmakers return to Jefferson City in September for the annual veto session, they may also address issues that will be a part of the First Extraordinary Session of the 96th General Assembly.

As was the case last year, when the governor called the Legislature back to the Capitol, jobs and economic development will be the focal point again this year. What makes this special session different from last years, instead of a bill aimed at one company, all of Missouri is said benefit from the items on the agenda.

Proponents of the newest “eco devo” legislation say the total package could save Missouri $1.5 billion over the next decade. This proposal includes several key elements that have been worked out by a number of folks since the regular legislative session ended in May.

Limiting Tax Credits

At the top of the list is tax credit reform. The Low-Income Housing and Historic Preservation tax credit programs could see reductions, as could other tax credits that were mentioned by the governor’s Tax Credit Review Commission, which met last year. Many folks are disappointed these credits are not part of the appropriations process. In other words, when lawmakers put together the state’s budget, the money that goes toward tax credits is not figured in. I have often said if tax credits were a part of the budget, may not even exist.

Creating a Trade Hub with China

These cost reductions listed above would help fund the “Aerotropolis Trade Incentive Act,” which supports say will help Lambert-St. Louis International Airport become a major trade hub. Over a 15-year period, $360 million in tax credits would be utilized to make this a reality. Many believe this will help move agriculture products overseas. Others say trade with China is a losing game for the United States and we should support existing infrastructure, not just a handful of investors.

More Spending in Missouri

Also included in the proposal are incentives to get amateur sporting events and data centers into Missouri. Some say these are beneficial ideas that would boost the economy for towns of every size. In addition, the “Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act” (MOSIRA) is designed to start the process of creating high-paying 21st century jobs that could put Missouri ahead of several states, in terms of job growth, retention and creation. Some worry MOSIRA funding may lead to unethical bioscience research. Others believe public investment in the private industry is the wrong way to go.

Setting the Date

Most of the legwork has been done on these ideas. All that is left is to decide what day to hold the special session, which is likely to coincide with the annual veto session during the second week of September. A lot of folks will be watching what takes place, and I pray lawmakers make the right decisions to put our state back to work soon.

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