A special legislative committee is being asked to approve a tax incentive program that is like Tax Increment Financing, but isn’t a TIF. Still, The Joint Committee on Tax Policy wanted to talk about TIFs anyway.

Supporters emphasize that it’s like TIF, but there’s no need to declare blight and it’s voluntary, avoiding touchy TIF issues. The tax breaks can be used only for public infrastructure, such as streets, water systems or sewers. A bill approved this year, HB 741 , instructs the committee to study the feasibility of the tax break by the end of the year.

Rep. Clint Zweifel (D-Florissant) complains that nearly any project can declare ground blighted and qualify for TIF. Zweifel openly questions what can’t qualify as "blighted" under current TIF regulations.

Lobbyist Ray McCarty points out that under the new program, blight isn’t a consideration and local governments must volunteer. McCarty assures lawmakers no school district will be forced to undercut its tax base under the new program. Lawmakers have long complained that the TIF program hurts local school districts. McCarty tells Sen. Victor Callahan (D-Independence) a law was passed this year to protect the new program should the legislature approved TIF reform. Callahan, who would like to see TIF reform, gives McCarty a pessimistic assessment, saying the legislature will never reform TIF. 

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)