Sunday, November 20, 2011
Crowell: Special session was a victory for taxpayers
The recently-concluded special session of the Missouri Legislature was termed a failure by many, but in his latest Crowell Connection, Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, says it was a triumph for the taxpayers.
Missouri’s Special Session for special interests finally came to an end. Even though House leadership and those who were slated to line their pockets with tax credits are telling the press nothing was accomplished, the exact opposite happened. Not only did the Senate listen to your demands that government not give away your hard earned money as developer welfare, but a huge light was shed on the abuses and failures of government’s inability to pick winners and losers through the awarding of tax credits.
When the state picks winners and losers through tax credits based on campaign contributions and promised virtual jobs, you, as a taxpayer, lose. Over the last 13 years the state’s jobs plan has been to increase tax credits, which it has done by 430.8 percent, equaling $545 million in 2011 and projected to reach $639 million in 2012. Yet, the promised jobs have not come. When Missouri’s return on investment, according to the Department of Economic Development, was 21 cents for every dollar spent on Historic Preservation tax credits and 11 cents for every dollar spent on Low- Income Housing tax credits, it is clear, tax credits are not about job growth; tax credits are nothing more than a sleazy political trade for campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.
Knowledge of this however has not stopped the politicians from giving out $250 million a year of your hard-earned tax dollars in Low-Income Housing tax credits and Historic Preservation tax credits. In fact, this special session was not about job creation, but instead was about the politicians’ efforts to get right with their fat cat campaign contributors, on your dime. So I am pleased to say they failed spectacularly, like never before and they are worried and scared because they know you are watching.
Special interests’ influence during this Special Session went as far as to get House Leadership to pass a resolution denouncing one of Missouri’s largest employers, Boeing, who employs over 15,000 Missourians. The resolution asked Congress to support Boeing’s out-state Texas rival and called an aircraft thousands of Missourians work on “aging and obsolete.” In an email to a constituent explaining why he supported the resolution slamming Boeing, the House Majority Leader Tim Jones said, “Frankly, the lobbyists and government affairs folks at Boeing were asleep at the wheel on this one.” He continued, “You would think that a large, powerful company like Boeing would have found the issue in this Resolution…and brought the issue to our attention.” As if it was Boeing’s fault he did not know what he was voting on.
The main purpose of this not so special Special Session, however, was to authorize new tax credits to for “Error-tropolis,” a topic we have covered in depth. I still believe that it is wrong, with our country facing massive manufacturing job losses to China, to make the central component of a “Made in Missouri” jobs plan the subsidization of the importation of China-made goods. Special interests convinced too many through campaign contributions, that if you give politically connected developers $300 million to build warehouses to store and distribute China-made goods, jobs will be created. By defeating this legislation, taxpayers won over the connected few.
The only thing missed this Special Session was an opportunity for reform of Missouri’s tax credits and that is truly unfortunate. As example after example of government waste through tax credits was presented, the Senate decided it was time to change our tax credits’ system to not only create jobs, but finally protect your money. We tied incentives to actual real job creation, not activities that may or may not create jobs. The Senate passed a reform and job creation bill that said Missouri will partner with you if you create jobs, but we will not subsidize activity just because you gave campaign contributions to a group of politicians.
Under the Senate’s plan, no longer would you as a taxpayer:
-Subsidize rehabilitation projects like Schultz Senior apartments in Cape Girardeau that received $373,000 an apartment unit in Low Income Housing and Historic Preservation tax credits and other government grants.
-Subsidize billion dollar sports teams like the $25 million in tax credits for a St. Joseph indoor practice facility and parking lot enhancements to the Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium.
-Lose millions of dollars when guaranteed loans are defaulted on like the $1 million from Wi-Fi Sensors in northern Missouri.
-Subsidize criminals with incentives like the CEO of Watch Me Smile who wrote $90,000 in bad checks for a dental office/clinic in Cape Girardeau.
-Subsidize companies like Mamtek which left City of Moberly taxpayers on the hook for $39 million in bonds which were defaulted.
-Be 45th in nation in Higher Education spending and 32nd in the nation on K-12 spending while spending $250 million a year to be 1st in historic preservation tax credit spending and 2nd for low income housing tax credit spending in the nation.
In the end, House Leadership killed these reforms because the special interests and their lobbyists own them, but the battle is not over. Now is the time for government to live within its means, not spend money it does not have by authorizing new tax credits not tied to real performance. The result of this special session is your hard-earned tax dollars were protected from more wasteful awarding of new tax credits and losing real Missouri jobs to China-made goods. We must not give up the fight to reform tax credits because it still goes on. The new session starting January 2012 and Missouri’s budget deficit will be a perfect opportunity for true leaders to take bold actions in reforming Missouri current broken and failed tax credits system. It will take you, the bosses of the politicians as the Missouri voter and taxpayer, to demand the right reform legislation be passed to put Missouri back on track.