Missouri’s economy is suffering, and at least part of the blame can be laid at the feet of a state development culture intent on picking winners and losers in the tax code. Too often Tax Increment Financing (TIF) decisions hurt local schools, libraries, and other services dependent on property taxes for no credible economic purpose, and recently we found out that the total price tag for all state tax credits cost Missouri over a half billion dollars over the last year – a record high.
Missouri’s go-go tax incentive culture is not without consequences. As the tax base narrows, tax rates either have to rise or services have to be cut, and if one business gets incentives, others will demand them as well. The result? Missouri has raced to the bottom about as fast as the state’s growth and job creation scores over the last decade, where the state wallows nationally in 48th and 45th places respectively.
Enough is enough. It is time for tax credit and TIF reform. Missouri needs low and stable tax rates, not development promises that are too often oversized and empty. We can do better than this, and must.