Saturday, August 27, 2011
Crowell: Special legislative session offers something for every special interest
In his latest Crowell Connection, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, says the upcoming special session is a grab bag of goodies for special interests.
A special session has been called for the special interests starting Tuesday, September 6th, 2011. The General Assembly usually meets January through May, but for extraordinary reasons, the Governor or General Assembly can call itself into session to pass what it deems as legislation that cannot wait until January. In this case, September’s special session is nothing more than an effort to get right with fat cat campaign contributors at your expense, the Missouri taxpayer. We cannot rebuild levees in Southeast Missouri or make farmers whole who lost everything in this year’s flood, but the politicians in Jefferson City want you to send $360 million in Aerotropolis tax credits to St. Louis. There is literally something in the Governor’s special session call for every special interest, but nothing for the Missourians who have lost everything due to recent disasters across our state.
Senate and House Leadership spent the month of July in a backroom in St. Louis cutting a deal that is short on economic development, short on tax credit reform, but long on government handouts to special interests, creating a larger budget deficit that prevents us from funding priorities like education. And Governor Nixon has yielded to this deal, endorsed it, and is doing his part to see to it that this September will be the “Special Interests First, Taxpayers Last” month by authorizing a special session to:
· Give $360 million to developers for Aerotropolis with no taxpayer protections to get their money back if Aerotropolis does not create the jobs promised;
· Exempt the construction of Data Centers from paying state and local sales taxes on utilities, machinery, and equipment;
· Provide $10 million dollars a year to attract a billion dollar sports industry to host events in Missouri;
· Reward those who avoided paying their taxes by giving amnesty to their wrongdoing; and
· Take money from the poor and disabled via the Circuit Breaker Property Tax Relief at $55.8 million a year or $847.5 million over 15 years to pay for these new giveaways.
This deal that Senate and House Leadership cut behind closed doors, in a non-transparent inside job, and is now being pushed to be passed in special session, must not be allowed to pass. Let me be clear, there is a path to do right by the Missouri taxpayer and I will fight to amend Leaderships’ bill to this end. But if we are to succeed, it will take you demanding that the Jefferson City politicians put you first instead of their campaign donors. It is my hope that together we are successful.
In this series we have been discussing the possibility of this special session, what is wrong with Leaderships’ back-room deal, what special interest provisions must be eliminated, and how we move forward with an economic development bill that puts Missouri first, not connected special interests and lobbyists. There are several issues at play; the past few weeks we have discussed Aerotropolis tax credits, Historic Preservation tax credits and Low Income Housing tax credits. As the special session approaches, we will continue to discuss all of these issues and the changes that must be made to Leaderships’ back-room deal. You will probably learn more then you want to know, but it is vital that you know what is going on with your hard-earned tax dollars in Jefferson City.
To understand Leaderships’ bill, we must look at the smoke and mirror savings House and Senate Leadership are claiming in their bill. To be able to give to their campaign contributing developers, they take the money from the Senior Citizen Property Tax Credit. Known as Circuit Breaker Property tax relief, this tax credit gives certain senior citizens and disabled individuals who rent a $750-a-year credit when they file their taxes. In 2011, Missouri gave out $55.8 million dollars in this tax credit to individuals who rented their homes. Over the next 15 years, budget experts expect Missouri to spend $847.5 million for the Circuit Breaker tax credit for renters. Leaderships’ bill ends this tax credit.
In my opinion, it does not make sense to give $55.8 million a year in property tax relief to people who do not pay property tax. But it is even more ridiculous to give this money to developers in new tax credits while Missouri has failed to fully fund the foundation formula in 2012 by $177 million for K -12 education. This is why Leaderships’ bill that gives the “savings” from ending the Circuit Breaker tax credit for renters to campaign contributors through Aerotropolis tax credits, Low Income Housing tax credits, and Historic Preservation tax credits is absurd and must not be allowed.
I believe now is the time to make fundamental positive reforms to Missouri’s tax credits system to protect taxpayers’ money. We should subject awarding tax credits to a transparent process, where your representatives will have the chance to look at all the things we spend your tax dollars on and prioritize accordingly. In Missouri, the method by which we set Missouri’s priorities is through the appropriation process. Here we ask each of the state’s expenses to stand in line before your representatives in the General Assembly; requiring them to demonstrate why, with limited resources, they should be funded over others. By making tax credits subject to the appropriations process, all state expenditures would now stand in line and prevent them from playing favorites by allowing those who receive tax credits to cut to the front of the appropriations line.
Now is the time for government to live within its means, not spend money it does not have by authorizing giveaway tax credits not tied to performance. Together we have an opportunity to do right by the Missouri taxpayer but it will take you, the bosses of the politicians, to demand the right legislation is passed in this special session. This can be done by taking back our state government and holding Senate and House Leadership accountable; shining a bright light on the problems with their back-room deal and watching them scatter like cockroaches from their current position. Again, I need your help holding these politicians accountable. They are counting on your silence. I will continue in the coming weeks to examine further the issues and changes needed for a “Taxpayer First Special Session.”