Crowell leads effort to cut low-income tax credits in Missouri

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Jason Crowell

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and other members of a state commission on Friday voted against giving out $140 million in state low-income housing tax credits to subsidize places to live in poor areas of the state, a move lauded by the Republican governor as a way to save money.

Members of the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted 6-2 against matching $140 million in federal low-income housing credits for this fiscal year, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. A final vote is needed and is expected at the commission’s next meeting, which now is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Jefferson City.

Former state senator Jason Crowell, a longtime critic of the state’s expensive tax credit programs and a new member of the commission, led efforts to ax the credits for the current fiscal year.

He praised Friday’s vote as “the single greatest step toward tax credit reform in the history of the state of Missouri,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted him saying.

The Southeast Missourian reached out to Crowell for a comment, leaving several messages on his cellphone Friday. None of the calls was immediately returned.

Greitens in a Friday statement said despite good intentions, the tax-credit program has not worked.

“We’re sick of politicians wasting your tax money,” Greitens said. “Today, we put an end to politics as usual, to save the people of Missouri hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The tax credits long have been criticized as being inefficient. Previous state audits have found only about 50 cents of every dollar invested in the state tax credits goes toward low-income housing projects; the rest goes to the federal government, investors and tax-credit syndicators.

But supporters said

cutting them could hurt the availability of low-income housing.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Parson said the move could have a “dramatic effect” on housing for the poor. He had urged colleagues on the commission to wait for lawmakers to return to the Capitol next year before weighing in.

“To make any drastic changes like this, for sure it will be challenged in the legal system,” Parson said. Such a dramatic decision “should be done by the legislative body and governor.”

The move also brought criticism from state Democratic leaders.

“I share Lt. Gov. Parson’s frustration with the politics at play here, and I hope Gov. Greitens will get serious about his job to effectively manage state programs before even more Missourians are hurt,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Gina Walsh said in a statement.

Friday’s vote came after Greitens placed two new appointees on the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which is responsible for approving and doling out the tax credits. New appointee Alan Simpson, of law firm Graves Garrett, was sworn in Friday before the meeting, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

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