Two years ago, Bruce Stahl and I compiled tax credit data from the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), the state’s primary development agency, to determine how economic development tax dollars were distributed geographically. Now that the tax credit reform issue has returned to the legislative forefront, it is important for Missourians to understand that these incentives have not been distributed on anything approaching a geographic basis — the way in which a tax cut, generally speaking, would reveal itself.
The data below encompasses tax credit issuances from 1999 to 2011. If tax credits had been distributed in line with Missouri’s population, each resident would have received the equivalent of about $393 in tax credit issuances.
Six of Missouri’s 115 counties (114 plus Saint Louis City) received above this $393 per person figure. The remaining 109 — more than 90 percent of Missouri counties — received less than that average. A searchable version of this document is available here. To put it bluntly, it seems to me that a vast majority of Missourians are essentially picking up the economic development tax credit tab for projects in just a half dozen Missouri counties. The disparities between counties here would be far, far less pronounced if instead of focusing on distributing tax credits to some, we distributed tax cuts to all.