October 23, 2014

Missouri Chamber outlines pro-business legislation, expect many issues to resurface in this year’s session (AUDIO)

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce says the legislature in Kansas last year slashed taxes for small businesses, effectively creating a new border war as Missouri businesses pack up and move across the state line.

The state Chamber has a lengthy list of pro-business legislative priorities this year, but spokeswoman Karen Buschmann says they can be summarized with three basic bullet points: reduce taxes, reduce litigation on employers, and increase opportunities for workers.

Tracy King is a legislative liaison for the chamber. She says reducing and restructuring business taxes can help retain businesses in Missouri, and save employers money, which would boost job growth. She says in a global economy and a fast-paced modern business world, some of the state’s tax policies unfairly punish businesses.

The Chamber has outlined several tax reduction initiatives, including Reduction of Income Tax for Employers (RITE Act); the Made in Missouri Act, which gives manufactuers a new option for filing income tax instead of penalizing them for shipping products out of state; Unemployment Insurance Reform, reducing the tax liability of Missouri’s unemployment system; and Targeted Tax Incentives, which would offer incentives to attract growing industries and entrepreneurs to Missouri, such as the data industry.

It will re-visit creating an international air cargo humb in St. Louis, a measure that fell flat when the clock ran out on last year’s session.

The Chamber’s desire to reduce litigation comprises workers’ compensation reform and employment law reform. The chamber says the workers’ compensation system was designed to provide a remedy for workers to be made whole quickly and fairly, and now that system is being chipped away by the courts.

The Chamber will, as it has done in previous years, work to bring occupational disease back under Missouri’s workers’ compensation system.

In the way of increasing opportunities for workers, the Chamber has approved a broad agenda of education reforms, many of which it says focus on empowering the local community in its educatin future.

The Chamber also supports either doing away with or reforming the state’s second injury fund, which is broke and has failed to make full claim payments for years.

Chamber President Dan Mehan says, “The fund is in jeopardy and without this safety net, you may see fewer veterans and previously injured workers hired. At the same time, liability on employers is mounting.”

“Lawmakers have avoided solving this problem and with each passing year, the cost of inaction is rising,” he says, “ultimately meaning that Missouri employers will have to pay higher and higher taxes to fix it.”

Right to Work is another controversial issue the Chamber says it will back this year, arguing that each of Misosuri’s neighboring states, with the exeption of Illinois and Kentucky have established Right to Work.

“This issue is framed as business versus labor,” Mehan says, “but that is not the case. Frankly, it’s an issue between labor and employees.”

He says workers should have a choice whether to be part of a union, and Right to Work gives them that right.

Another labor priority for the Chamber is Paycheck Protection, which prohibits labor organizations from using employee dues for political contribution without permission.

For more, visit www.mochamber.com/legislativeagenda

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:20)