Missouri Historic Tax Credit

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock

Currently, the Missouri legislature is debating on whether to restructure the state’s historic tax credit program given the state’s budget crisis. Governor Nixon apparently believes that the state’s historic tax credit programs are large and have been usurping state funds that could go public schools, colleges and universities. Therefore, his administration believes that these programs need to be reformed to free up cash flow for other state programs. Governor Nixon’s administration has proposed creating new statutes for six separate state historic tax credit programs with discretion on the amount awarded, whether to award any amount at all, whether to award any or all of a particular year’s credits allocation and whether to cap certain tax credits at $314 million a year. No rules or regulations have been set in place for the Missouri Department of Economic Development to even make these types of determinations which will only serve to complicate the process even though the current process has been recognized as a national model.

In 1999, The Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “In St. Louis Developers Bank on Tax Credits” wherein the author called the Missouri Historic Tax Credit program “a national model.” The article explains “the Missouri program provides state income tax credits for 25% of eligible rehabilitation costs of approved historic structures. The credit which has no cap applies to both residential and commercial buildings and can be used in conjunction with the 20% federal historic tax credit. In addition, the state tax credit is transferable: Mercantile Bank (now US Bank) has set up the Missouri Tax Credit Clearinghouse to buy and sell credits.” Rehabilitation construction projects such as Cupples Station, the Chase Park Plaza and projects on Washington Avenue and surrounding areas in downtown St. Louis would not have taken place without these tax credits. Without these tax credits, these properties would most likely continue to be an eye sore for the community and definitely not creating new jobs nor increasing state and local government revenue.

The Missouri Growth Association (MGA) and St. Louis University performed a ten year study with regard to Missouri’s historic tax credit programs. In March 2010, they released their conclusions which revealed that the Missouri historic tax credit program contributed to the creation of over 43,000 Missouri jobs with average salaries of $42,732, $669 million in newsales, use and income tax revenues which directly benefited the state and local governments as well as $2.9 billion in private investment in Missouri. According to the Missouri Department for Economic Development, Missouri Historic Tax Credit projects created 4,900 Missouri jobs in 2007, which according to David Listokin of Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research, equals 38 jobs per $1 million invested or more jobs than highway or new construction projects. Moreover, the Missouri Department of Economic Development noted that from 1998 – 2008 over $4 billion of investment had been leveraged throughout Missouri as a result of the Missouri Historic tax Credit Program as well as $858 million being invested in 2008. In addition, the Missouri Department of Economic Development has concluded that over 66 communities in Missouri have taken advantage of these historic tax credit programs.

According to the Downtown Community Improvement District (2009), St. Louis City alone has 5,000 new residents as a direct result of Missouri’s Historic Tax Credit programs which caused the city to have its first population increase in fifty years. All of these new residents as well as visitors are paying new local taxes to the state and St. Louis City.

The discussion of removing or capping Missouri’s Historic Tax Program would have zero effect on the 2010 budget since historic tax credits have already been approved for this year. Any change to the Missouri Historic Tax Credits programs would only affect future state budgets. If the state historic tax programs are changed, developers would then analyze the cost to renovate a historic building with the potential revenue. In addition, changes to the programs or uncertainty in the programs will cause more problems for developers in terms of financing a project. At this time, developers are having a hard time financing projects as a result of new internal lending policies and procedures. Many lenders are requiring anywhere from 40% percent equity to 100% collateralization in order to obtain a loan. If the state has a stable historic tax credits program, a developer can leverage those funds to aid in financing a project.

While Missouri is debating whether to institute significant changes to the Missouri Historic Tax Credits programs which was deemed “a national model”, Kansas removed its historic tax credits cap. Further, Iowa increased their historic tax credits cap and Illinois is organizing a historic tax credit program. If Missouri wants to continue to grow jobs, grow revenue for state and local governments as well as increase private investment; particularly, when the country and the state are hopefully coming out of a significant economic recession, the Governor and state legislators need to think long and hard about altering a extremely successful state historic tax credit program which is not only the envy of many other states but has been recognized on a national level.

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