This week, the Missouri Senate took a stance against the wasteful spending of Missourians tax dollars by approving Senate Bill 108. This proposal prohibits new projects from using funds from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programs in an area designated as a flood plain by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, this proposal also modifies the definition of “blighted” so that flood plains cannot be designated as blighted, and making flood plains ineligible to receive TIF.

I believe this is a great piece of legislation that helps lawmakers and tax payers alike take a closer look at where our tax dollars are going. In many rural areas across the state, the occurrence of flooding is no mystery. I believe tax payers should not be held accountable when new developers decide to build in a flood plain because they know the risk of building in these areas and should incur that cost if they choose to proceed.

The original intention of TIF was to aid in the development of economically distressed areas, but since its introduction in Missouri in the 1990s, the program has become prone to abuse. Many people don’t realize their tax dollars are going to private developers that probably didn’t need public assistance in the first place. To qualify for TIF, a project must be considered “blighted,” but state law has a very broad definition of what qualifies as blighted. For instance, even with levees and other protections, our flood plains qualify as “blighted” even though they are prone to flooding.

I support this proposal because it aims to protect communities’ public dollars from being used to fund projects in flood plains and encourages developers to avoid building in dangerous areas. Our state has seen a number of historic floods in the past few decades, and the damage from severe flooding has destroyed many businesses and forced people to evacuate from their homes.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-7985. You may also email me at cindy.olaughlin@senate.mo.gov.