The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2, 2013

Our View: Go slow with tax credit caps

The Joplin Globe

— Legislators are right to periodically review the more than 60 tax credit programs Missouri offers. Each one should have to justify its existence.

And because low-income housing tax credits are among the largest of those programs, they should not necessarily be above scrutiny.

But we caution legislators to avoid draconian action with a program that has a proven track record.

Only a few years ago, the low-income tax credit program was cut by $124 million.

Now legislators are looking at reducing the program further, from the current cap of $190 million.

The House is looking at $135 million, which is more generous than the Senate version, and the two versions will have to be reconciled in conference committee, probably next week.

Joplin may be a community that regularly votes for low-tax, pro-business legislators, but as a low-income area, a segment of our community also depends on these credits and similar programs. Never was that more apparent than after the tornado, when low-income tax credits were given to Joplin to stimulate rebuilding.

Jefferson City, let’s go slow.

Advocates point out that cutting low-income housing doesn’t eliminate state spending, but simply shifts it elsewhere.

According to the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, seniors who end up in nursing homes cost the state four times as much money (through Medicaid) as they do living in a typical housing project supported by low-income housing tax credits.

These tax credits help provide safe and stable housing for children and families who might otherwise be homeless or living in dangerous conditions.

They also have stimulated the building business economy, creating jobs and revenue.

Some of the business tax credits that have been proposed or approved this year might be better candidates for a skeptical eye.

We think low-income tax credits have proved their worth, in Joplin and elsewhere. We urge our legislators to keep that in mind.