A tax cut bill has ballooned so large even its sponsor doubts that the state can afford it.
House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) had a simple plan. Since the state budget is expected to end the fiscal year with a $300-to-500 million surplus, why not cut the tax on Social Security benefits? After the House amended HB 444 , the price tag was estimated first at $468 million. It then was revised to $285 million. Jetton says the first estimate came about because the calculation was based on more pension plans than included in the bill. Still, even at $285 million, the bill has grown too big for Jetton’s taste. Though Jetton speculates that the state can afford a tax cut of up to $200 million, he doubts that the Senate will approve a tax cut that large. Jetton wants to return it to a Social Security tax cut with a few other public pensions thrown in; about $130 million.
Representative Clint Zweifel (D-Florissant) and other critics remain skeptical. They say the surplus was built on the Medicaid cuts Republicans pushed through the legislature two years ago, not on economic growth. They also contend that the proposed tax cut would only benefit wealthy retirees.
The tax cut proposal, in its bloated form, now moves to an uncertain reception in the Senate, which has been much less optimistic about the state’s fiscal picture.