Jobs Committee hears international cargo hub bill

Witnesses testified before a Senate committee Wednesday about a House proposal to give businesses up to $480 million in tax breaks for helping to develop an international air cargo hub in St. Louis.

The Senate Jobs Committee heard support from business interest representatives as well as Director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge.

Hamm-Niebruegge said the amount of revenue Lambert generates from cargo, which is about 2 percent of $170 million a year, is “pathetic” when compared to similar sized airports.

“It became clear that we had to look at alternative forms of revenue if we wanted to Lambert to be sustainable for the state,” Hamm-Niebruegge said.

Representatives from the Show-Me Institute testified against the bill and said the tax credits in the bill were to expensive and would cost the state too much money.

Committee Chairman Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, disagreed with the Institute’s representatives and said that the cargo hub would be beneficial to all Missourians.

“Being critical of a new idea that’s bold isn’t anything new and isn’t anything unique,” Schmitt said. “I’m sure the steamboat captains of the late 1800s thought that the railroad were something that threatened their interests.”

Schmitt also said the bill was important enough not to ignore and that criticizing the opportunity could lead the state to forgo potential revenue gains.

– Missouri Digital News