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Constitutionality of tax credit challenged in Mo.

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – The constitutionality of one of Missouri's tax credits was challenged today in a Jefferson City courtroom.

The Land Assemblage Tax Credit has enabled St. Louis-area developer Paul McKee to buy up large sections of distressed property on the city's north side. McKee also sold the credits to raise more cash.

Plaintiffs say that the tax credit violates a state constitutional ban on giving public money to a private individual. Attorney Irene Smith argued the point before Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce.

"We don't believe that there's a public purpose, and basically we believe that this legislation was clearly passed to benefit one specific individual," Smith said.

McKee's attorney, Paul Puricelli, told Joyce that an adverse ruling would threaten all of Missouri's tax credits. And he argued that McKee's selling of his tax credit won't harm redevelopment plans in north St. Louis.

"You can't get the tax credit, sell it, and go to Tahiti...you have to take that money and spend it on the redevelopment of a distressed area or a qualified census tract," Puricelli said.

Joyce will make her ruling at a later date.