September 22, 2010
Some would say Missouri is awash with tax credits. In 2009 approximately $600 million in tax credits were authorized by state government. Legislators and business leaders are concerned Missouri, facing a $700-million budget deficit, is too generous with tax credits. Is the return on investment worth the expenditure? Hopefully, wise and steady thinking will prevail and the system of tax credits will be revamped, maintaining those helping to grow Missouri’s economy and phasing out those that do not. Time will tell.
An advisory committee at The Chamber, comprised of various experts and stakeholders, has met the past two months and will guide The Chamber’s policy direction on tax credits and economic incentives in anticipation of next year’s legislative session. Missouri has 61 individual credits such as the historic preservation credit, the low-income housing credit, the senior citizen property tax, the dry fire hydrant credit, the quality jobs tax credit, the wine and grape production, and on and on.
My personal favorite is the film production tax credit, through which, Missouri has been the venue for some or all of the filming of the following movies: Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Kansas City; National Lampoon’s Vacation; Paper Moon; Ride with the Devil; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and most recently Up in the Air; and Winter’s Bones.
The state uses a tax credit of over $4 million a year to attract films to encourage the film business in Missouri. Winter’s Bones has been in Kansas City theatres through the summer. The low-budget film received $260,000 in credits. It won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival and receives 4 stars from most reviewers. It feels like a documentary, but it’s not. It tells a poignant tale of drug-dealing, meth cooking, and poverty in southern Missouri. Might be the best movie of the year, but it casts this rural region of as bleak, dangerous, and depressing.
Ironic that arguably the most compelling film of the year was assisted by tax credits from a state which the film portrays so unfavorably.