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Schmitt says tax credit bills' passage shows legislative cohesion

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2013 - The Missouri Legislature has long struggled with how to structure the state's tax credits but has frequently failed to make headway amid philosophical and structural disagreements.

But for state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, the Senate’s passage of two tax credit proposals this week shows progress on an issue that's given the Senate fits over the last few years.

“I think it proves our ability,” said Schmitt in a telephone interview.

The Senate this week easily approved by 28-4 Schmitt’s bill for an incentive to attract amateur sporting events to the state. They also unanimously passed a bill reauthorizing so-called “benevolent” tax credits, including ones for food pantries and "pregnancy counseling" centers.

Last year, these measures were attached to legislation that also lowered the cap for the historic preservation tax credit. Then-Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said that forcing lawmakers to reauthorize those popular incentives was a way to continue a broader effort to restructure the state’s tax credits.

Because of term limits, Crowell -- who, by the way, criticized the move on Twitter -- left the Senate earlier this year. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said in a statement that the bills will boost the state's economy. 

“Tax credit reform is a legislative priority for us this year,” said Dempsey in a statment. “These are necessary bills, and a real testament of how this Senate can operate, by improving the state and making government more accountable. These incentives passed today will create jobs and give Missouri an economic advantage.”

The amateur sports event tax credit would be made available to sports commissions, nonprofit organizations, counties and municipalities to offset expenses incurred in attracting amateur sporting events to the state.

That credit, according to Schmitt, would be equal to the lesser of $5 for each admission ticket sold for the event or 100 percent of eligible expenses incurred. No more than $3 million in tax credits may be issued in a fiscal year.

Schmitt said that amateur sporting events can have a big economic impact, especially if they lure in out-of-towners who pay for hotels or restaurants.

“In some cases, Final Fours are tens of millions of dollars of economic impact,” Schmitt said. “If you look at the Olympic swimming trials, which they’re bidding on right now, it’s a weeklong event. The impact of some of these events is very significant.

“The beauty is its has statewide application,” he added. “If Cape Girardeau wants to host the Ohio Valley championship or -- now that we’re in the SEC – we want to host the SEC basketball championship, that could possibly happen.”

If both bills pass the Missouri House without any changes, they will go to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature. 

“I think it’s a statement that we can move forward in ways that make sense,” Schmitt said. 

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.