JEFFERSON CITY, MO (AP) — Tucked into a new Missouri incentives package for a possible General Motors expansion is another tax credit program tailored to benefit a single Kansas City company.
Missouri officials and lawmakers loudly praised the tax incentives for General Motors, aimed at enticing the company to expand its Wentzville plant. But a provision that expands another tax credit program for Kansas City's Burns & McDonnell received little public discussion, The Kansas City Star reported .
That tax credit program only applies to architectural, engineering or accounting businesses headquartered in Missouri for more than 50 years with at least 500 employees and a $20 million investment in the state.
"That would be us," Burns & McDonnell Chief Financial Officer Denny Scott told the newspaper with a chuckle.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed the new law this month.
Missouri has already issued $39 million in tax credits to Burns & McDonnell since 2011, according to state records.
The expanded program will allow the company to write off investments in cloud computing technology. Legislative researchers estimate that could mean more than $300 million in lost Missouri revenue over the next 15 years, although supporters of the program dispute that.
Bipartisan Kansas City-area lawmakers pushed for more tax credits for Burns & McDonnell, arguing that it was only fair considering the $50 million in tax credits that General Motors now is able to receive if it expands its plant in the St. Louis suburbs.
Suburban Kansas City Republican Rep. Jeff Coleman sponsored the Burns & McDonnell expansion and downplayed it to the Star, calling it "a wording issue." He said the legislation represented an update to the needs of businesses shifting from physical assets to technology investments.
"People are renting space online now," he said.
But fellow Republican Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin, of Shelbina, a rural town of about 1,700 people in northeast Missouri, said the legislation is a testament to the power of wealthy companies and their lobbyists. She described the Burns & McDonnell provision as "a sweetheart deal that lands on the back of the middle-class taxpayer."
"To me, it is the epitome of what we don't want to do," O'Laughlin said. "It was written so that only (Burns & McDonnell) qualify for it. I would be willing to bet that 90% of the people don't even understand that it's in there. Did you ever hear anyone speak about that? I didn't. Not out loud. Not on the floor."
The provision received little public discussion among lawmakers.
Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon said the issue was not originally on the agency's radar and "emerged for us during the course of the legislative process."
"The priority for us has always been workforce development and infrastructure," Parson said, when asked after signing the bill whether the Burns & McDonnell tax credit was a priority for him.
When asked whether that included the Burns & McDonnell tax credit, Parson laughed and said the Star had already asked its one allotted question.