By Eli Yokley
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
Lawmakers began their push this week to allow the city of Joplin to collect state tax revenue in the new tax increment financing district that encompasses the area ravaged by the May 2011 tornado.
David Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners — the firm the city has contracted to manage the redevelopment of the tornado zone — was in Jefferson City on Tuesday and Wednesday to testify in favor of legislation that would allow the city’s TIF district to pull state tax revenue — creating what supporters call a “super-TIF” district.
“Special circumstances require special legislation,” Wallace said. “We are rebuilding the heart and soul of the community.”
Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, presented the bill on Wednesday to the Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee, urging lawmakers for a third time in as many years to approve the legislation.
“This is an attempt to help ourselves,” Richard said. “The state TIF doesn’t come lightly.”
Richard was active in the effort to pass the legislation during a special session of the General Assembly in 2011, and again during the regular session last year. The legislation did not advance then, but supporters believe this time is different. This time, all of the taxing districts in the city — the county, city and schools — have signed on to the proposal, and its supporters hope that means momentum behind the bill.
Under the proposal, Joplin would derive a total of about $60 million over 23 years from the city TIF district and the super-TIF district to help finance redevelopment projects. The bill specifies that a super-TIF district could be given only if the area has received a presidential disaster designation, as well as a local TIF district preceding it.
The Joplin City Council has designated 3,000 acres for a local TIF district. That will allow the use of half of any new increase in local tax collections to go to $806 million worth of redevelopment projects.
Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, proposed similar legislation in a House committee on Tuesday. It is being co-sponsored by other local state Reps. Charlie Davis, Bill Lant, Bill Reiboldt and Mike Kelley.
But Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, whose district contains the TIF district, did not co-sponsor the bill. He has filed legislation that would require a two-thirds vote of the people before the state TIF could go into effect, and he plans to offer an amendment to the legislation in the House.
“TIFs in general need to go to a vote of the people,” he said. “It is the taxpayers’ money, not the taxing districts’ money. It comes from taxpayers. That money (already) has been allocated for schools, for libraries; all has been designated.”
White said his opposition to the TIF proposal without a vote of the people does not mean he is against Wallace’s redevelopment plan, but that he is “not OK with that redirection of money without a vote.”
During an interview Tuesday, Wallace said that if the legislation is not approved — and because of that the city loses out on a potential $17 million — “some of the projects will not move forward.”
“It is a piece in a jigsaw puzzle that we have to be able to plug in,” he said.
DAVID WALLACE, CEO of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, said that if the state legislation is approved, he and the city plan to begin massive construction work on 19 projects throughout the TIF district immediately.
“BECAUSE THERE IS SUCH A VOID in the community, we are trying to line up all of these projects and all of the capital so we can get them started within a year,” he said.