After Greitens opposition, soccer stadium backers hold off on state tax credits | St. Louis Public Radio

After Greitens opposition, soccer stadium backers hold off on state tax credits

Jan 2, 2017

Updated 3:30 p.m. Jan. 2, with renewed opposition from Gov.-elect Greitens - If those who want state help to build a new Major League Soccer stadium in St. Louis had hoped for softening from the incoming governor, no change is apparent. At an event to announce a new public safety director, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens said he has "completely ruled out state funding for stadiums.

He repeated an earlier description the idea: "I do not support welfare for millionaires. I look forward to meeting with the leaders of the MLS project to see if there's a way for them to bring private sector funding to bring a soccer team to the state of Missouri."

Original article, Dec. 20 - Proponents of a soccer stadium in St. Louis are postponing their request for state tax credits, a development that makes Gov.-elect Eric Greitens’ opposition to the project much more significant.

The Missouri Development Finance Board was slated to deliberate Tuesday on $40 million of tax credits for the stadium, which is being proposed as a way to attract a Major League Soccer franchise to St. Louis. While the proposal has the strong backing of Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, it attracted opposition from Greitens. The Republican said in a statement on Monday the soccer stadium project was “nothing more than corporate welfare for millionaires.”

And on Monday afternoon, House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, slammed what he contended was a “rush” to approve the tax credits before Greitens took office. Most of the Missouri Development Finance Board is composed of members serving on expired terms or Nixon cabinet officials – which means Greitens could instantaneously have his appointees control the MDFB once he takes office.

In a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday morning, SC STL chairman Paul Edgerly said “while we were disappointed in the statement yesterday by Governor-Elect Greitens, we respect that he and others may differ from our views."

“We continue to believe in the substantial economic and other benefits of this project to the State and to the City of St. Louis,” Edgerly said. “Given current developments, we are postponing our scheduled meeting with the MDFB this morning so that we can personally meet with Gov. Elect Greitens in the days ahead to gain a complete understanding of his position and fully brief him on the project and the benefits it affords to the State of Missouri.” 

On Tuesday afternoon, Greitens said in a statement that he applauded "the decision by SC STL to withdraw their request for taxpayer money."

"It’s great news for Missouri taxpayers," Greitens said. "As I said yesterday, I'm opposed to taxpayer funding for the soccer stadium, something I view as welfare for millionaires. I’m looking forward to meeting with the ownership group to discuss a plan to bring private investment and jobs to Missouri."

SC STL’s decision to hold off on their request could put the future of the tax credits in doubt – especially if Greitens doesn’t budge from his opposition to publicly-funded stadiums. A reconstituted MDFB with Greitens appointees could vote down tax credits for the soccer stadium project.

What's more, Richardson said Monday that lawmakers might take a serious look at how the MDFB operates. (Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, filed a bill to bar the MDFB from expending any public money.)

“This is the second year in a row that we’ve been talking about these types of credits being issued and a lot of legislative opposition to them,” Richardson said in an episode of the Politically Speaking podcast. “I don’t think there’d be any question that there would be desire for the legislature to review how those projects get awards and what the limits of the money available for MDFB are.”

Edgerly said that a study found the project would produce “a net positive economic impact for the state with more than 400 permanent jobs created, the generation of tax revenues that more than returns the State’s investment, and the ability to build upon the continued revitalization of Downtown St. Louis.” 

“We’re hopeful that Gov.-elect Greitens, who campaigned on a pro-business platform, will welcome the opportunity to learn more about the upside of the project for the state and city alike,” Edgerly said.

This isn’t the first time Greitens came out against publicly funding a St. Louis stadium. When he was campaigning for governor, Greitens blasted a scuttled riverfront football stadium as “welfare for billionaires.” 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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