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Missouri Senate weighing tax credit cuts and banning lobbyist gifts

Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City

The Missouri Senate is again considering capping the state’s two biggest tax credit programs, despite their popularity with local leaders in urban and suburban areas.

Two separate bills, SB 590 and SB 591, would place limits of $50 million a year on incentives for both historic preservation and low income housing, which are both currently capped at $140 million. State Senator Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, sponsors both. He touted them Tuesday before the Senate committee on ethics.

“At this time we are facing difficult decisions about funding education, our roads, health care, our senior citizens,” he said. “We must think hard and look at all these tax credit programs out there that affect our budget.”

Opponents argued that cutting preservation incentives would threaten neighborhood revitalization efforts.

St. Louis-based lobbyist Jim Farrell testified against the bill that would shrink the cap on historic preservation projects.

“Tens of thousands of jobs have been created from this program,” he said. “We’re using the existing infrastructure, and we’re taking vacant, abandoned buildings, underutilized properties, and putting them back on the tax rolls. This is changing old warehouses into hotels, it’s changing schools into innovation technology incubators, or into senior and veterans housing.”

A vote on shrinking the two tax credits could happen next week.

Lobbyist Gifts

The Missouri Senate committee on ethics is considering the proposed ban on lobbyist gifts that passed last week in the House.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, contains a few exemptions, including catered events in which every lawmaker and statewide elected official is invited.

“The grass roots-type of events that happen around the state, such events like Association of County Clerks, Great Northwest Days, Missouri Press Association,” he said. “It has to be posted within 72 hours prior to the event, and it must occur within the state of Missouri.”

Gifts of flowers and other plants would also be exempt. Republican Sen. Dave Schatz of Sullivan, a long-time opponent of banning lobbyist gifts, says forbidding them would drive gift-giving underground.

“We have a transparent system right now; obviously, expenditures are reported,” Schatz said. “We can have the conversation about (how) we define gifts or we limit those type of expenditures, but I think as long as we have transparency, sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

The Senate ethics committee took no action Tuesday.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.