House Speaker-elect Steven Tilley talks about upcoming session

Tax issues are sure to become a major topic in the upcoming legislative session.

State Representative Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, will become the next House Speaker when the new legislative session begins in January. Tilley served as Majority Floor Leader on Speaker Ron Richard and led the election effort that saw Republicans gain a staggering 106 seats in the House to strengthen their control over Democrats in the chamber; 106-to-57.

Tilley rejects suggestions that the state might increase its revenue and help the beleaguered state budget by raising the tax on cigarettes or enforce the state sales tax on Internet sales. He seems cool to suggestions by the Tax Credit Review Commission to reform Missouri’s 61 tax credit programs, stating only that he will study the report issued November 30th.

“And I’ll be happy to comment once we’ve made it through (the report),” Tilley tells a Capitol news conference. “But I will tell you, my preliminary evaluation of it is they’ve used false data and incorrect conclusions to come up with the recommendations.”

Tilley declines to specify what false data might have been used. He says he will address that after the House conducts its review of the commission’s proposals. The commission was appointed by Governor Nixon to review tax credit programs and suggest changes. It proposes eliminating 28 tax credits and making adjustments to 30 others to save the state $220 million annually. Tax credit reform has been an issue championed in the Missouri Senate, which says the state cannot afford to give away money when it is cutting the state budget. It has been resisted in the House, where leaders say too much attention has been focused on what tax credits cost, with little attention on the economic activity they might spur.

What is on Tilley’s agenda is the Fair Tax or some form of state sales tax to replace the state income tax.

“I favor a Fair Tax, a consumption based tax,” Tilley tells reporters. “I think if you look at states, like Tennessee, that is very, very similar to us that have it, they do well.”

How high a sales tax would be needed to replace the revenue received from the state income tax?

“Well, I think it depends how big the base is,” Tilley responds. “If you make a broad sales tax base, the number goes down. If you shrink the sales tax base (the number goes up). And so, there’s a lot of details there that need to be worked out, but it certainly deserves our time and our consideration.”

Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, will enter the next legislative session with a commanding 106-to-57 majority over Democrats. Despite those numbers, Tilley has announced that three Democrats will chair committees in the upcoming session. Tilley has appointed Rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) chairman of the Appropriations – Public Safety and Corrections Committee, Rep. Linda Black (D-Bonne Terre) chairman of the Corrections Committee and Rep. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) chairman of the Urban Issues Committee. Only one Democrat held a chairmanship last session.

The number of House committees has been trimmed from 53 to 42. The lopsided Republican advantage in the House will give Republicans big advantages on committees. Committees with 12 members will have eight Republicans and only four Democrats.

Rep. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) will chair the powerful Budget Committee. Rep. Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington) will chair the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Rep. Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) will chair the Higher Education Committee. Rep. Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles) will chair the Economic Development Committee. Rep. Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia) will chair the Judiciary Committee.

Two committees that hold substantial power over the House though they have slight public profiles are Fiscal Review and Rules. Rep. Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) will chair the Fiscal Review Committee which evaluates and reports to the House the cost of measures before it. Rep. John Diehl (R-Town and Country) will chair the Rules Committee which determines which bills get reported to the Majority Floor Leader and how much time might be allotted to debate them.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]