April 16, 2014

Legislature sends $620-million tax cut proposal to Governor

The legislature has sent Governor Jay Nixon (D) a proposed $620-million a year cut to income taxes, and Republicans are considering whether enough votes to override a veto are in reach.

House Speaker Tim Jones signs SB 509, the proposed $620-million a year tax cut proposal.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Speaker Tim Jones signs SB 509, the proposed $620-million a year tax cut proposal. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Nixon has 15 days to act on the bill (SB 509). He could sign it, allow it to become law with no action, or he could veto it as many Republicans anticipate he will. 

Nixon called an evening media conference shortly after the House vote and didn’t say he would veto the bill, but hinted at it.

“On its face,” Nixon told reporters, “this year’s reckless fiscal experiment looks an awful lot like last year’s reckless fiscal experiment.”

Nixon vetoed a tax cut proposal last year and 15 House Republicans voted with Democrats to sustain that veto.

104 lawmakers voted for the tax cut proposal Wednesday, with one Democrat siding with Republicans. 109 votes would be needed to overturn a veto and 7 lawmakers were not present for the vote.

Backers say the legislation would let Missourians keep more of their paychecks and that would lead to a stronger economy. Nixon and opponents say the reduction in state revenue threatens state programs and services, particularly education.

The timing of the passage means that if Nixon vetoes it, lawmakers could have a chance to attempt a veto override before the end of the session.

Senators say mixed messaging in transportation sales tax, income tax cut proposals

An opponent of asking voters to support transportation with a one-cent sales tax for ten years says it’s “illogical” coming from lawmakers who also want to cut taxes.

Senator John Lamping

Senator John Lamping

Legislative budget estimates are that the proposed ten-year tax would generate about $720-million annually. Senator John Lamping (R-St. Louis) noted in a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday that members of the Republican majority in both chambers are pursuing major tax cuts.

“The $600-million to $900-million that we have agreed to remove from General Revenue … that’s the funding source. That could serve as potential funding source for roads,” Lamping tells the House sponsor of the proposal, Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair). Lamping says that contradicts the argument that the state doesn’t have the money to fund roads.

Hinson argues that a legislature can’t be counted on to fund transportation out of General Revenue.

“Ask the school districts and the veterans how that’s working out for them, the promises that the General Assembly has made in the past,” Hinson tells Lamping. “We’re not fully funding veterans programs, we’re not fully funding the school foundation formula.”

Lamping argues that his proposal to permanently redirect a half-percent of sales or use taxes to the state’s road fund is a way to ensure that transportation remains funded, even out of General Revenue. Opponents of his proposal say funding transportation from General Revenue risks inserting politics into transportation decisions.

Senator Jason Holsman

Senator Jason Holsman

Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) says he supports the transportation tax because of the projected funding shortfall for MODOT, but he also questions asking for that tax increase while Republican lawmakers push for a tax cut.

“My concern … is the perception and the messaging that we’re sending to the people,” says Holsman. “From a social science standpoint is it wise to reduce your revenues and then ask your voters to increase the burden on them?” he asks Hinson.

“Some people would probably agree with you that it’s probably not the wisest thing to do,” Hinson answers.

Lamping also questions whether $720-million would be enough to provide for maintaining Missouri’s current infrastructure and new projects. He notes projections that the Transportation Department’s budget could be as low as $350-million by 2017, and that maintaining roads cost about $700-million.

“Are they going to not repair the roads while they’re building these projects?” asks Lamping.

Hinson says he doesn’t know if the projects that would be seen would be considered new, rather than repair and maintenance. He points to projects such as those to widen shoulders and add rumble strips to lettered routes.

Hinson’s proposal cleared the House last week 96-53.

Legislator urges greater efficiency in MO government (VIDEO)

A House committee votes Thursday on a resolution asking the Departments of Transportation and Conservation to follow the Office of Administration’s proposed best practices.

Chairman of the Committee on Downsizing State Government, Representative Paul Curtman (R-Pacific), proposed the resolution.

“It’s important that the Department of Conservation and the Department of Transportation cooperate as much as is possible,” says Curtman. “Conservation and Transportation don’t always have the oversight from the legislature that a lot of other beaurocracies have, so this is a policy recommendation which would ask them to comply a little bit with the Office of Administration or at least keep open some lines of communication.”

Curtman says his committee will continue looking for ways for the state to be more efficient. He says Missourians can see more of its work and offer suggestions on a website it created, DownsizingMOGov.com.

 

See the chart and the letter referenced in the video

Criminal Code path forward could hinge on federal transportation money concern

Whose version of criminal code legislation will advance could depend on how each might impact federal transportation money.

House and Senate lawmakers who have spent years working on an update of Missouri’s system of criminal laws and punishments must now decide which chambers’ version of that rewrite to go with.

Representative Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) says one issue that must be considered was raised by the Transportation Department.

“What we found out in fiscal review,” says Morgan, “with the House bill we may be out of compliance with that mandatory minimum sentencing and it may cause us to lose $18-million in funds as a result of that.”

The sponsor of the House criminal code bill, Representative Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia), says he thought the issue had been resolved.

“We have distributed this and encouraged various state agencies,” he tells Morgan, “and really I thought that we had made MODOT happy, but we’ll certainly continue working on it.”

The sponsor of the Senate legislation, Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) says that issue has been dealt with in her chamber’s version.

“They brought that concern to us months ago. We fixed it months ago on the Senate side. It is not a problem.”

The Senate version of the bill is also smaller, having been reduced to about 700 pages while the House version is still around the 1000-mark.

House approves ‘Pop Tart’ bill to protect kids pretending to have weapons in school

A bill has been sent to the state Senate that is meant to protect children simulating a weapon during play at school from criminal or civil penalties, fines or other punishments.

Representative Mike Kelley (R-Lamar) calls it the “Pop Tart” bill, stemming from an incident last year in a school.

“A child was eating a pop tart, and the shape of his Pop Tart happened to resemble a gun,” Kelley explains, “and that child was disciplined and suspended from school for having a pop tart that happened to be shaped like a firearm.”

The bill raised concerns among some Democrats, including Genise Montecillo (St. Louis), who challenged his contention that the legislation represented a “common sense” policy. She says it goes against other state laws.

“These are the procedures that school districts put in place as part of the Safe School Act to keep schools safe,” Montecillo told Kelly. “You’ve got a provision in here that children can have toy guns in school and there’s no punishment if they violate school policy for toy guns.”

Kelley stressed to Montecillo that the bill would allow guns only up to 2 inches in size.

“I don’t care what size it is,” she told him.

Kelley assured Representative Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) that the legislation would not take local districts’ power to set policy and make decisions about what would and would not be allowed.

“I just want to make suer that local school districts can make their own policies that will negate this,” Newman told Kelley.

“They definitely can, ma’am,” Kelly told Newman.

The proposal went to the Senate on a 110-39 vote.