Christine Harbin
What a long, strange three weeks it's been. My colleague Audrey Spalding and I dropped nearly everything we were doing in order to focus on the "China Hub" proposal. The details keep changing as it moves through the legislature, but we're staying on top of it. The one thing that doesn't change is that it will do more harm than good for the Missouri economy. Here's a roundup of all things "Aerotropolis" — in case you need to catch up.

It began with a flurry of blog posts and some radio gigs, and it grew from there. Late last month, Audrey and I stopped by The McGraw Milhaven Show on The Big 550, KTRS in Saint Louis, and the Mike Ferguson show on 93.9 FM “The Eagle” in Columbia. We talked about how the Aerotropolis proposal would be more of a boondoggle than an investment.

A little more than two weeks ago, Audrey and I both testified about the Aerotropolis proposal before the Missouri Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee. The written version of our testimony is available on our website. You can also watch the video of our testimony here on Show-Me Daily:

Note the part where Sen. Ron Richard said, "I've got business people and friends of mine that live in Saint Louis that are begging for something new and creative. So we take a chance." He has it completely backward. Tax credits aren't new and creative. Neither is draining more money into Lambert. Aerotropolis is more about subsidizing business as usual than taking a chance.

Audrey and I penned an editorial explaining how Sen. Richard was mistaken. It ran in the Southeast Missourian and the Columbia Missourian this week.

Late last Monday night, lawmakers made many changes to the bill. The amount of tax credits dropped from $480 million to $360 million. We're still talking about a lot of money, though. State lawmakers combined Aerotropolis with a bill that would otherwise limit tax credits. It's schizophrenic public policy, and it doesn't make sense. I've called for limiting tax credits for a long time, so I am disappointed that state lawmakers are negating the benefits of limiting tax credits by combining them with a policy that would expand them. It's like the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of tax credit legislation.

Next, we split up to reach more people. Audrey went back on the McGraw Milhaven Show on The Big 550, KTRS on Wednesday. The audio archive of the interview is available here. Audrey reviewed how the bill has changed, and how it will do even less to encourage international trade. Meanwhile, I spoke to KMOX radio about how it's a bad deal for taxpayers.

Yesterday morning, I was a guest on the Charlie Brennan Show on KMOX. I had a great time. I talked Aerotropolis with: Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, director of Lambert–St. Louis International Airport; Rodney Crim, director of the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC); and Steve Johnson, executive vice president of economic development for the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA). An archive of the audio is available online. I argued that, if building cargo warehouses next to the airport is such a good idea, private entrepreneurs will pick up their shovels. They would have broken ground already — they wouldn't be waiting around for tax credits.

Later that day, the Show-Me Institute's executive director, Brenda Talent, released an open letter to Missouri Speaker of the House Steven Tilley. She encouraged him to remove the Aerotropolis bill from the current legislative agenda. I wonder: What's the rush? Why are state legislators frantic to get Aerotropolis enacted in the final days of session? What's the harm in studying the issue a bit longer?

This morning, I enjoyed talking with Steve Helms on “Morningline,” on KWTO AM 560 in Springfield. We discussed the fact that the Lambert airport is already drowning in debt — to the tune of more than $900 million. Much this is left over from the failed $1.1 billion runway expansion from not too long ago. I wonder: Is draining even more money into the airport the best use of taxpayer dollars? Couldn't Steve's listeners in Springfield spend their tax monies on things closer to home?

Even though it's Friday, we're not taking a break from our media outreach. KWMU Radio ran a commentary of mine a couple times today, and the St. Louis Business Journal ran an editorial written by Audrey Spalding and me.

I wonder what next week will bring for Aerotropolis. Stay tuned to the Show-Me Institute team — we'll continue to track the issue and provide up-to-date analysis on what it will mean for Missourians.

About the Author

Christine Harbin

Christine Harbin