June 14, 2012

Legislators Who Opposed Corporate Welfare Receive Low Grades

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has released its 2012 voting scorecard. State legislators are graded based on how they voted during the past legislative session on the “most important issues.” The Chamber did not post what those issues were, so it is difficult to discern how grades were awarded.

But several Missouri state legislators who received low grades happen to be strong supporters of free-market policies and/or opponents of corporate welfare.

Take Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City). The Missouri Chamber gave him an ‘F’.’ I certainly do not agree with everything that he proposed during the 2012 legislative session (nor do I agree with everything that any other lawmaker discussed in this post has sponsored). But Barnes sponsored several bills in the wake of the Mamtek scandal that were designed to limit the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) and local governments from irresponsibly awarding large subsidies to corporations.

Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Pacific), who was given a ‘D,’ also sponsored some good legislation aimed at limiting corporate welfare. Curtman sponsored a bill that would require two-thirds of area voters to approve local property tax development subsidies. He also sponsored one of my favorite bills, which would allow people to enter some professions that require a state license without obtaining a license, as long as they do not advertise themselves as being licensed. Do we really need to license interior designers, private investigators, and cosmetologists?

Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau) was awarded a ‘C’. In my book, Crowell deserves an A+ for taking strong stands against tax credits. Various state departments award hundreds of millions in tax credit dollars every year, frequently with little to show for it. Some state tax credits have been created for just a single company. Crowell has filibustered against these handouts, and during the 2012 legislative session, sponsored a bill that would subject tax credits to the state budgetary process. He also sponsored a bill that would limit tax-delinquent developers from receiving property tax subsidies.

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (D-St. Louis) was awarded the lowest grade. She has introduced bills with which I disagree. But Oxford’s “Good Jobs First” bill would have gone a long way to help bring more transparency and accountability to Missouri’s corporate subsidy programs.

I hope that Missouri legislators continue to fight bills that increase corporate welfare, as well as continue to try and roll back some of our existing corporate welfare programs, regardless of grades received from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

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