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ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A plan to provide $360 million in tax breaks to help establish a China air cargo hub at Lambert International Airport is coming under fire.
The free-market think tank, the Show-Me Institute, is warning the proposal to ease the future tax burden on companies that build warehouses and other infrastructure around the airport shifts the risk from private business to taxpayers.
“If building warehouses is where the market is going right now, why wait for government assistance ? Why wait for tax credits?” said Christine Harbin, a policy analyst with the Show-Me Institute.
Defending the Aerotropolis tax break package, Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge says the Chinese are looking for a signal that the region has a “long term” committment to the China hub.
“If we don’t look at doing something to grow this airport, we’re all going to fail,” Niebruegge said, “There is not a tax dollar that is spent on this if it’s not first built, and products are going in and out, and jobs are in there.”
The Executive Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation, Rodney Crimm, also joined the discussion on KMOX.
“I think that you have to build it and they will come,” Crimm said.
A caller to the show, Executive Vice President of Development with the RCGA, Steve Johnson, got into a heated exchange with show host Charlie Brennan on the value of tax breaks for private businesses.
“You know, why does the modern businessman, why does the modern member of the RCGA need me to pull out my wallet to fund his business?” Brennan said.
“First of all, it’s not anything that’s peculiar to RCGA or St. Louis,” Johnson said, ”Economic development is a very competitive business.”
The Aerotropolis plan, Senate Bill 390, received preliminary approval from the Missouri Senate and has since been merged with a separate economic development plan, House Bill 116. Debate continues.