Bill Would Increase Input on Subsidies

Article excerpt

Legislation slated for a vote today would give St. Louis County a bigger role in deciding whether to grant tax subsidies to developers.

The bill would let St. Louis County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall appoint three people to each municipal tax-increment financing commission in the county. Supporters said the change would help stop bidding wars that shift commercial tax bases from one city to another.

"The idea was to put some balance in the commissions, so we'd look at regional issues and not just parochial ones," said Sen. Franc Flotron, R-Chesterfield. Flotron sponsored the change, which was approved Wednesday by a joint House-Senate conference committee. Flotron's amendment is part of an economic development package that expands and revises the increasingly popular subsidy called tax-increment financing, or TIF. The program lets developers use some of the increased local tax revenue generated by their projects. The money helps build streets, sewers and other structures needed for the developments. The Legislature wants to expand the program so developers also could use up to $15 million a year in state income taxes and state sales taxes that they generate. Gov. Mel Carnahan vetoed an earlier version of the bill, citing inadequate controls over state funds. The Legislature is meeting in a special session to fix the problems. That session could end this week if legislators approve the compromise bill drafted Wednesday. Flotron's amendment had been scrapped by the House last week but was resurrected by House-Senate negotiators. …