Changes to disaster relief bill expand tax breaks to new business creation

By Stacey Kafka

JEFFERSON CITY – The Senate Ways and Means Committee was urged this week to pass a disaster relief bill.

Amendments to a disaster relief bill aimed at aiding destroyed businesses seeks to create new businesses in destroyed areas.

The original bill gave tax breaks to businesses completely destroyed by natural disasters. Now, changes made to expand the bill include creating incentives for new commercial development in the disaster zone.

Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, sponsors the bill and said he thinks this bill is a fairness issue.

“It’s a fairness issue. when you’re hurt you get taken care of and when you’re healthy you do your obligations,” White said.

These changes were added to encourage development in the areas hit by the May tornado, but sparked debate among some who said they felt these changes could lead to unintended consequences.

One area of concern among senators was the fact that school districts could face serious consequences.

If this bill passes, the tax base would be much smaller, which would not only impact schools, but the city of Joplin as well.

Gov. Jay Nixon already awarded Joplin school districts $150 million in order to avoid increasing taxes for local businesses and residents, but there could still be some gaps in the budget.

City infrastructure that was destroyed in the tornado could risk not being repaired if there is no money in the city’s fund.

New developments will continue paying taxes, but city collections for those taxes will be frozen at the 2011 base rate. All other revenue from the taxes will be put in a separate fund to support the rebuilding efforts. Under the tax-increment financing, referred to as TIF, approved developing districts will receive assistance from the city fund.

This bill requests the state to participate in a “Super TIF” which would generate state revenue to the hard hit areas. Future increases in taxes would be added to the redevelopment fund for that area.

The bill now goes to an executive session in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.