ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–The Missouri House approves a nearly half-billion dollar tax break package to help set up the Lambert Airport China hub — but the plan could face turbulence in the Missouri Senate.
By a voice vote, the House today gave overwhelming support for a measure that provides $480 million in tax breaks for American companies helping set up the proposed international trade hub at Lambert. The bill was sponsored by central Missouri Republican Representative Caleb Jones.
“This bill will affect the entire state,” Jones said, ‘Not just the St. Louis area. It’s going to create demand for all of Missouri and our products and goods. Folks from my district are going to be able to load up cattle and drive it to St. louis and have it in China the next day.”
But during this tight budget year, the measure could face a high wall of opposition in the Missouri Senate. Southwest Missouri Republican State Senator Jason Crowell has been skeptical of tax breaks for business development.
“I’m not determined to stop anything,” Crowell said, ” I’m determined to make sure the taxpayers don’t get screwed.”
Crowell notes there has been no study to show the China Hub tax breaks would ever be recouped by expanded business growth.
Five weeks remain in the legislative session.
Monitoring the debate from St. Louis, Lambert Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge says if the tax breaks aren’t approved, it could be a deal killer.
“I think if we really want to build an international cargo hub, if we don’t get this, we could see it not happen,” Hamm-Niebruegge said.
Hamm-Niebruegge, who has been closely involved with the China-hub talks, says critics of the tax breaks should keep in mind, they are targeted to American companies, not to the Chinese.
“There is no direct payment to the Chinese on this,” Hamm-Niebruegge said, “And I think it’s important for people to understand. What this incentive is, is to build companies here and around the Missouri area, and for the U-S-based freight forwarders to bring product here.”
If all goes well, Hamm-Niebruegge predicts Chinese cargo flights could be landing at Lambert “by this summer.”