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Senate passes modified version of China hub bill

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Missouri senators passed and sent to the House of Representatives a scaled-down version of the tax plan proposed by the governor for the legislature's special session.

On Sept. 13, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, dropped $300 million in tax breaks to developers for building the infrastructure, including warehouses, to attract a Chinese airline to base an air cargo hub in the St. Louis area.

Mayer acknowledged he did not have the votes to pass the plan that the governor and legislative leaders had agreed upon.

"I don't think that we could have gotten votes to pass the 'Aerotropolis' provision as we had it written out," Mayer said.

Mayer's decision to scale down the bill came after a closed-door Republican caucus late Sept. 12 in which only a few members indicated they definitely would support the original proposal, members who attended the caucus said.

The caucus was held shortly after a briefing earlier that night for senators by a private company hired by the administration to study the financial impact of the plan. The results encompassed multiple scenarios, most of which only predicted a small positive return 10 years after the initial investment.

Several members expressed dissatisfaction with the predicted outcomes.

"Understanding that every dollar that we invest in this or any other economic incentive is a dollar that we're not going to put in education or we're not going to put in roads or we're not going to put in bigger issues," said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville. "We need to understand what those returns and opportunity costs are."

Mayer's revised plan, approved Sept. 14 by the Senate, would retain $60 million in tax breaks to companies that help facilitate shipments for international export. Mayer and the House speaker said there might be a possibility for the warehouse tax breaks to be implemented through another provision in the bill for economic development, called "Compete Missouri."[[In-content Ad]]

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