A few of the state legislators who have taken advantage of agricultural tax credits tell the Missourinet they have no problem with disclosing their tax breaks, but just don’t want to see lawmakers barred from making such investments or singled out.

Rep. Shannon Cooper (R-Clinton) says he began pushing for disclosure of tax credits after the Joint Committee on Tax Policy learned that information about lawmakers who received new generation tax credits wasn’t made public. Cooper has presented his proposal, HB 1674 , to the House Elections Committee. It would require that legislators disclose the state tax credits they receive on the public paperwork they file with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture, responding to requests made by members of the committee, released the names of former and current lawmakers [ see download link below ] who have received New Generation Cooperative Incentive tax credits . Topping the list of current lawmakers is Rep. John Quinn (R-Chillicothe). He, his wife and his farm have received more than $200,000 in tax credits, mainly from investments in ethanol plants. Quinn invested in Golden Triangle of Craig before he became a state representative.

Quinn tells the Missourinet, "All of these projects were available to all Missouri farmers basically, so it wasn’t as if I had an advantage over anyone else."

Quinn says he doesn’t mind disclosing the tax credits he receives, but says all lawmakers should be required to disclose any dealings with the state. He would like to see Cooper’s bill amended to include provisions that would require legislators to disclose any tax breaks they receive from the state, including such things as contributions to the MOST college savings program. Quinn says lawmakers should also disclose any dealings their businesses have with the state.

Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), who has received more than $12,000 in agricultural tax credits, doesn’t have a problem with disclosure, "Now I do have a problem with anyone who wants to challenge a legislator’s ability to participate in New Generation Co-ops."

Agreeing is Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), who has received nearly $24,000 in tax credits.

"Again, these are very risky ventures. If they weren’t, somebody else would be doing it," Stouffer tells the Missourinet, "I think it’s in our best interest to allow legislators to be those leaders."

The New Generation Cooperative Incentive Tax Credit Program was created by the legislature to spur the emerging ethanol industry. State lawmakers who support the program say the first two ethanol plants in the state would not have made it without the tax credits and incentive payments used to lure investment. A typical ethanol plant will receive $1.5 million in New Generation tax credits to be distributed to all the farmers who invested in the plant. The New Generation program is only available to farmers.

Missouri now has several ethanol plants. The latest one, Show Me Ethanol, is being built in Carrollton at a cost of approximately $60 million.

A person who participates in a state tax credit program can redeem the credits at tax time. The Missouri Department of Agriculture says the New Generation program allows the credits to be used going back three years or forward five years. New Generation credits are transferable and sellable. Someone who earns the credit can use them to pay their taxes, can sell them or can use part and sell part. The credits can be used to pay income taxes, franchise taxes, insurance premium taxes or financial institution taxes.

Other lawmakers who have received New Generation tax credits include Rep. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown), who has received nearly $25,000 in tax credits, Rep. Therese Sander (R-Moberly), who’s husband Theodore has received $18,000 in tax credits, Rep. Jim Whorton (D-Trenton), who has received $5,000 in tax credits, Rep. Terry Witte (D-Vandalia), who has received $2,600 in tax credits, and Sen. Frank Barnitz (D-Lake Spring), who received $1,250 in tax credits.

Prominent former legislators listed by the Department of Agriculture as having received New Generation tax credits include Sen. Sidney Johnson (D-Agency), Sen. John Cauthorn (R-Mexico) and Rep. Sam Leake (D-Center).

Stouffer says it’s important for legislators to be involved in raising the capital for ethanol plants, bio-diesel plants and other value-added agricultural ventures. He says farmers look to see if rural leaders will invest their own money before they feel comfortable with such investments.

"But to disclose it, I have no problem at all," Stouffer says, adding, "I’m all for transparency."

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