Economic development was to be the top priority this legislative session; a response to Missouri’s economic downturn. The House sponsor of a jobs bill remains optimistic something will get through in the last week-and-a-half of the session, even though the Senate rejected his latest effort.
Legislative leaders talked about it. The governor made it a top priority with the hope that an economic development bill could reach his desk by spring break. That didn’t happen. Now, legislative leaders are trying to reach a compromise in the last week-and-a-half of session.
Rep. Tim Flook (R-Liberty) says SB 215 zeroed in on the core issues the House wants, primarily an expansion of the Quality Jobs Program, the state’s premiere job recruitment tool. The House has advocated lifting the lid of the program to $100 million and making changes State Economic Development officials say are needed to tackle large projects.
Flook says expansion of Quality Jobs is one of the core items on the House economic development list of priorities. Also on that list are New Markets Tax Credits, Angel Investment Tax Credits and Research and Development Tax Credits.
Much of that core, if not all of it, is seen as essential to the state’s work to provide incentives to Monsanto to expand in St. Louis. State officials say Iowa is making an aggressive push to lure the Monsanto expansion to Des Moines. Flook says the state also wants more flexibility in its business incentives to help with a proposed expansion of Burns and McDonald in Kansas City and to lure investment by Eagle Picher in southwest Missouri.
That core was contained in SB 215, which the Senate bogged down on Monday night. Flook isn’t optimistic he can resurrect SB 215. He believes he has a better shot as using SB 377 as the vehicle to carry another version of the jobs bill that passed the House in early February.
Flook says SB 377 opens up all the issues the Senate has been debating. He says it seems that no jobs bill will move in the Senate without tax credit reform.
"In the Senate, I think you have a gridlock over this issue and I am not certain, at this point, how they are going to break it," Flook says. "But we agree here in the House the only hope we have is to keep pressing them with economic development bills and keep up the pressure on our side."
One of the thorniest issues has been what to do with tax credits to develop historic homes and businesses. The program has far surpassed what legislators envisioned when it first began. Flook expects the Historic Tax Credit program to reach $170 million in Fiscal Year 2010. The program, according to Flook, will have to be subjected to a cap for any economic development bill to move through the Senate.
Senators also are pressing for better reporting on tax credits and Tax Increment Financing with better data compilation as part of any package.
Time is running out for a compromise. The legislative session ends May 15th.