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Government, Politics & Issues

State Senate to decide Monday on fate of economic development, primary bills

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 12, 2011 - Next week could be the last chance for Missouri lawmakers to pass an economic development bill in the special session of the Missouri General Assembly.

Farrah Fite, the communications director for the Senate Majority Caucus, said the Senate will meet Monday to vote on whether to go to conference with the Missouri House to try to resolve the two chambers' differing economic development bills. The House has yet to vote on whether to participate in such a conference.

Fite said the Senate also may vote Monday on a proposal to do away with Missouri's presidential primary, now slated for February. The House voted last month to shift the primary to March, in order to comply with mandates by both major parties. The GOP-controlled Senate failed to act on that bill, and some senators now want to eliminate the primary altogether since the Missouri GOP has decided to use its existing caucus system to award delegates to the various presidential hopefuls.

Eliminating the primary could save the state millions of dollars in election costs, although some localities are still planning February elections on other issues.

Regardless of the Senate's action Monday, Fite said the special session will conclude next week.

The Senate passed an economic development package in September, but the House last week passed a bill with major differences.

While the House and the Senate versions share some similarities, one sticking point is whether to place expiration dates on two tax credit programs to encourage low-income housing and historic preservation.

In a statement, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said Senate conferees "will be expected to hold firm on taxpayer safeguards, namely protecting the Senate position of seven-year sunsets on Missouri's two most expensive tax credit programs."

Overall, he said, the Senate version "would save taxpayers nearly $1 billion over 15 years while securing the future of innovative and financially responsible tax incentive programs to help keep and relocate businesses to Missouri.  With these savings, we can better prevent drastic funding cuts to the critical functions of state government -- namely K-12 and higher education and social service programs that serve our most vulnerable populations."

House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, is among the House leaders who have opposed sunsets for the program, arguing that including them could put the programs in jeopardy because one or two senators could filibuster any measure to reauthorize them.

Jason Rosenbaum, a freelance journalist in Missouri, covers state government and politics. 

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