Sprawl-Busters has often complained that large corporations often build their empire on a foundation of public tax breaks, which are then used to put other taxpaying businesses out of work. In Missouri, a coalition of groups is trying to limit the use of tax financing, a form of corporate welfare.
Legislation has been introduced in the Missouri legislature, SB 172, that would make it harder in certain jurisdictions to use tax incentives to subsidize certain retail projects. The act requires that a study be a part of the basis for finding that a redevelopment area on the whole is a blighted area, a conservation area, or an economic development area, and that such area has not been subject to growth and development through private investment. This study must state that records were reviewed, inspections were made, comparisons were made, or tasks undertaken demonstrating that the property has not been developed through private enterprise over a period of time. The act also requires an economic feasibility analysis indicating the return on investment of the proposed development. The act limits a portion of existing law concerning sharing of payments in lieu of taxes among affected political subdivisions to apply only to blighted areas. Any redevelopment project consisting solely of public infrastructure improvements on public land, requiring less than two million dollars in Tax Incremental Financing, and where the TIF bonds will be paid-off in less then seven years are exempt from these new criteria. The act requires approved project areas to have high unemployment, low fiscal capacity, and moderate income. The act also limits the maximum amount of public funding for approved TIF projects to 30% of the total project costs, unless the redevelopment is occurring in certain further impoverished areas. The act does not allow TIF to be used to develop sites where 25% or more of the area is vacant and has not been previously developed, qualifies as “open space” as defined in state law, or is presently being used for agricultural or horticultural purposes, except in certain cases. The act changes criteria used to evaluate primarily retail redevelopment projects funded by tax increment financing in the City of St. Louis and in St. Louis, Jefferson, Warren, St. Charles, Franklin, Lincoln, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve counties.
For a copy of Senate bill 172, or to contact people working on this legislation, contact [email protected] For examples of the use of corporate welfare to aid big retailers, search this database by “tax” or “corporate welfare”.