Nixon signs bill giving tax incentives to data storage centers, similar to 1 vetoed before

Some new and expanding data storage centers in Missouri soon will be exempt from certain state and local sales taxes under a bill signed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon aimed at bringing jobs and high-tech companies to the state.

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The measure, similar to a bill Nixon vetoed last year, exempts certain data storage centers from paying those taxes on equipment, utilities and machinery.

Supporters say the move is needed for Missouri to compete with neighboring states that offer similar tax incentives, but skeptics have questioned whether the perks will be enough of a draw to attract new businesses.

Missouri Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Mehan called the legislation a "game-changer."

While the measure is less expansive than proposals for tax credits that the Legislature has passed in previous years, Republican House Speaker John Diehl said exemptions are "what the industry needs the most to try to expand in the state."

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said it is unlikely lawmakers will also attempt to pass tax credits this year.

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The Legislature has struggled to pass even the sales tax exemptions. The proposal hit a roadblock last year, when Nixon vetoed the similar bill because of concerns that the exemptions were too broad and did not guarantee a return on the state's investments.

This year's measure requires that expanding companies invest $5 million and create five new jobs paid at 150 percent more than the average county wage. New facilities must invest $25 million and create 10 jobs.

Businesses are subject to random audits and face penalties if those requirements are not met.

The bill also blocks tax exemptions that cost more than projected benefits to the state. Legislative researchers estimate the measure could cost the state about $92,000 next fiscal year.

"Consistent with the fiscally responsible approach to economic development we've pursued from day one, this bill will help attract high-tech data center investments and jobs - without putting our budget or taxpayers at risk," Nixon said in a statement.

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Data storage bill is SB 149.

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Online:

Missouri Senate: http://www.senate.mo.gov

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Associated Press writer Marie French contributed to this report. Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine