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Nixon makes final-week appeal for legislative action on tax credits

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2010 - Referring to the Legislature's final week as the five-month session's "second half," Gov. Jay Nixon said today that he was optimistic that most of his sought-after bills will be passed by Friday's 6 p.m. deadline.


Nixon told reporters today in St. Peters, where he headlined a news conference on economic issues, that he was pleased the House had acted Monday to pass a measure mandating insurance coverage of autism treatment. He predicted a final version of the bill, which must be hashed out by a House-Senate conference panel, will be on his desk before the end of the week.

Nixon, a Democrat, said he remained optimistic that the Republican-controlled Legislature will pass a measure stiffening penalties for drinking while intoxicated, and that he still had hopes for a true ethics reform bill that curbs some questionable campaign activities, such as committee-to-committee money transfers.

The governor didn't comment on the version passed by the House last week that included a number of unrelated provisions, some of which were aimed at curbing his own powers.

"We've got a lot on our plate. A lot is in a position to pass," the governor said, adding that he was pleased with the civil and congenial atmosphere "over cole slaw and barbecue" during a state Capitol picnic Monday evening.

He offered no predictions on his key objective this session: revamping the state's tax-credit programs, and limiting the amount doled out for historic tax credits. The latter is a particular popular program in St. Louis, where officials say the aid has helped spark a lot of economic and residential redevelopment.

Nixon made clear Tuesday that he believed the historic tax credit program, overall, costs the state more tax dollars than it delivers in economic benefits. He said he discussed the overall issue of state tax credits with legislative leaders on Monday, and expected to do so again later today.

The governor reaffirmed his chief argument -- that Missouri can't afford to continue offering the current level of tax credits, which now take almost $600 million a year out of state-government coffers.

Tuesday's backdrop was yet-another case of irony, where Nixon was lauding a new job-creating development that received state economic tax credits. In this case, it was the site in St. Peters of a new manufacturing plant for Austria-based Alpla, a plastics-processing company. Nixon joined St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano (both pictured), along with Alpla officials and workers.

Alpla was receiving state tax incentives, including $166,080 in Quality Jobs tax credit and a state Customized-Training grant worth $100,000. The St. Peters plant is initially providing 70 jobs, which should increase to 150 within the next 10 years, company officials said.

Nixon said the project exemplified how state tax credits should be awarded, saying that the economic impact of the Alpla plant could be "quantified" and that the state's tax incentives were tied to actual economic gains.

"These aren't entitlements, these are agreements," Nixon said. He contrasted the Alpla project to others helped by historic tax credits. "It seems inefficient that if it's an historic project that you automatically get it," he said.

At a time when he and the Legislature are making cuts in numerous worthy state programs, Nixon said that he hoped that in the case of tax credits, "My hope over the next four days, they take a hard look."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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