When I posted Special Session or Not? I admit I had rather low expectations of much good coming from the Governor’s call for a special session. So far, unfortunately, those expectations have been met.
I’m actually surprised that here we are, nearly one month later, and the legislature is still in special session. The initial media reports echoed a common refrain: that there was consensus on a “deal.” Turns out that there’s anything but a consensus.
What’s the problem? To begin with, there’s the complexity of the “deal.” Phil Brooks, writing in the Joplin Globe, has a very insightful take on some of the complexity (Phil Brooks, columnist: Omnibus bills have ominous risks). It’s well worth reading.
The centerpiece of the special session was the Aerotropolis, or China Hub, legislation. In exchange for sunsetting and capping various tax credits, there was to be a program established wherein new, unneeded warehousing space was to be built and a freight forwarding network established – with up to $360 million in tax credits.
The biggest source of dollars for this new tax credit? That would result from the elimination of a portion of a tax credit that reimburses senior/disabled renters for part of their property taxes. To be fair, this notion came from a recommendation made by the Governor’s Commission on Tax Credit Reform. However, the way it was packaged in the bill (i.e., “taking from seniors and the disabled and giving to wealthy of developers”) seemed not only like poor public policy, but also poor politics!
An amendment to take that portion out barely passed on a 17-16 vote, making many senators angry that they were put in the position to have to vote “for or against seniors and the disabled” on a straight-up vote. Had the amendment not been offered, senators would have been able to vote to take the money from seniors and the disabled and say, “The good outweighed the bad”. . . yadda, yadda.
Once that happened, the deal really came unraveled. The Senate then unilaterally changed the deal by eliminating the warehousing tax credit (which is a good thing) and inserting a new program called Compete Missouri (which is a bad thing).
Some conservative senators voted for Compete Missouri, which sunsets and caps some tax credits while eliminating others, while reconstituting the dollars in a new program that the governor and his Department of Economic Development (DED) would control. These conservative senators believed that the capping and elimination were sufficient to give carte blanche to the governor and DED.
While all of this was going on, the Mamtek issue blew up. This was an eco-devo project that went way wrong. Fortunately, no state dollars were actually expended on it, but the City of Moberly is left holding the bag – to the tune of about $39 million in payments on Obamabonds reportedly handed out to them by the governor. Rudi Keller at the Columbia Daily Tribune has done a series of articles on the Mamtek debacle that clearly indicates that a program like Compete Missouri is not advisable!
Grassroots activists also became involved in the special session. There have been more than 2,000 witness forms turned in between the Senate and House committee hearings against the economic development bills (SB7 and SB8). In case you are wondering, that’s a lot! Combine that with the Mamtek disaster . . . well, let’s just say it didn’t help the proponents of Aerotropolis.
The bottom line is that the House has passed two Senate bills – the Facebook fix and MOSIRA – and the Senate has not passed the House bills – Presidential Primary fix and Local Control. The special session is lingering on for no good reason.
The Senate should pass the two House bills above and then adjourn the special session. Missourians’ liberties will be much safer when the legislature adjourns!