(See Update at end)
A state so poor that it kicked 100,000 Missourians off Medicaid three years ago has recently developed delusions of grandeur. The legislature is considering offering a Canadian firm, Bombardier Aerospace, as much as $880,000,000 in tax credits over the next 22 years in order to lure the airplane manufacturer to build a plant in Kansas City.
Did you see how many zeros came after those two eights? That figure is edging up on a billion bucks.
But the bill flew through the House with only two hours of debate. The Senate was a different story. After three days of debate, the bill has stalled on the runway. Cooler heads may yet prevail, and some of them are even republican heads.
Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, who has led Republican opposition to the bill, argues that:
“Paying up to nearly $900 million in tax credits for 2,000 jobs makes no sense.”
And that’s not the only reason to be skittish: Crowell wants to see the details of the deal before Senators commit themselves to following them.
With the biggest tax credit offer in the history of our state at stake, Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, is the only one who’s seen the details? At the very least, he should tell the other senators how many Brooklyn Bridges they are buying here.
But even if the senators had all the details, they should be more than leery. Pitting our state against other possible investors this way is too reminiscent of how Wal-Mart pits one community against its next door neighbor, asking who’ll give it the biggest tax breaks for the chance to have a new Wal-Mart in the community. The only one who wins in those price wars is Wal-Mart. The ones who lose are the local schools, fire departments, and police departments.
To be fair, this deal might not be just the same kind of scam writ larger. Supposedly, those tax credits will be paid back in the form of royalties on planes sold, but a lot could go wrong between now and retrieving our $880 million.
Victor Callahan knows it.
“At the end of the day, we have to ensure that our taxpayers are protected and that we’re fully accountable,” said Sen. Victor Callahan, an Independence Democrat. “The current bill does not do that.”
Because of sentiments like Callahan’s and Crowell’s:
The Senate voted down an amendment to an appropriations bill Wednesday that would have set aside $120 million in early round financing for the project, with 22 senators voting no.
Let it die. Let somebody else have this pig in a poke.
Update: HB2393 passed in the House 125-16. Democrat Ron Richard of Joplin sponsored it.