Oct 11

No Rest for the Political in the Show Me State

Advocacy Groups Are Already Working to Shape Tax, Spending and Health Care Decisions in 2014

by Mike Ferguson

(St. Charles, MO) – There’s an off season in baseball. There’s an off season in football. There’s an off season in soccer and basketball as well. Athletes in the big leagues of these respective sports don’t take it easy once the season ends: they immediately start conditioning and planning for the next season.

That’s the same approach lawmakers and advocacy groups take to politics in Missouri.

The regular legislative session and the annual veto session are in the record books for 2013. Nothing more will be done to change our laws or our state budget this year. That doesn’t mean, though, that political work is taking a break.

The politicking and public relations work surrounding the ideas that haven’t even been officially proposed for 2014 yet is well underway.

After Republicans lost their bid to reduce personal and business taxes via Governor Jay Nixon’s veto pen, they already say some form of tax cuts will be on the agenda next year. Whatever plan the GOP proposes will likely be something that addresses or eliminates the concerns that led to some Representatives jumping ship when it came time to override the Governor’s veto.

What was called – by both sides – a mistake in the bill’s language would have raised taxes on prescription drugs. That would have hit Missouri’s senior citizens the hardest. While Republicans pledged to fix the confusion in January, there was enough concern to allow Nixon’s veto to stand.

On “Missouri Viewpoints”, one of the plan’s loudest opponents says she understands that another tax cut plan is on the way. This time, Amy Blouin hopes everyone has a say in shaping what will eventually come to the Legislature for a vote.

MWSnap126“There definitely is room for compromise. The issue is how you pay for it?

“We don’t want to see public services reduced, education reduced further than it already has been.”

Blouin is the Executive Director of the Missouri Budget Project, which opposed the tax cut bill officially known at HB 253. Defeating the Republicans’ second swing at a tax cut plan may be tougher in 2014, so Blouin at least hopes those on more of the political left can be a part of shaping that plan.

“We have to be careful about how we put together a bill, so that it doesn’t hurt middle income Missourians and low income Missourians. You want to make sure that the quality of life in Missouri is maintained and that we’re investing in the education and the infrastructure that we need, and businesses need, in order to thrive.”

Blouin and many Democrats said a reduction in taxes would result in reduced funding for social services and key government programs, including education and highways.

Republicans say making the state more friendly to business through lower taxes would result in economic growth by attracting businesses from other states.
During the program’s interview, Blouin indicated that she and her organization would be more open to personal income tax reductions if they target the low and middle income.

Associated Industries of Missouri’s Ray McCarty wants to see the tax cuts for everyone – like what was proposed this year.

MWSnap127To McCarty, there’s a sense of urgency on the issue because of how aggressive at least one border state has become in courting businesses through tax incentives and tax breaks.

“If we do nothing, if we continue with our tax policy the way it is, we are just asking for those S-corporations and those job creators in the economy to move to Kansas, especially if they are in the Kansas City area and it’s a very easy move for them.”

McCarty and AIM were involved in proposing the 2013 tax cut plan to lawmakers. He says the 2014 plan will address concerns that were part of HB 253’s demise.

“We’ll look at how we pay for those tax credits, doing them out of the growth in state revenues as we had tried to do with the bill before. I think we’ll refine that mechanism a little bit and make sure that we’re protecting the funding for the vital services in the state of Missouri and, at the same time, we’re making Missouri a more competitive place to do business.”

In other words, a business tax cut is likely to be proposed and debated again.

While lawmakers don’t report for political duty until January, their ears will be bent with efforts to shape their views and eventually their vote on the state’s tax policy now. Amy Blouin, Ray McCarty and dozens of advocacy groups all over the philosophical spectrum will make sure that political off season in Missouri remains a busy time.

On the web:

Missouri Budget Project: www.MOBudget.org
Associated Industries of Missouri: www.AIMO.com

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/no-rest-for-the-political-in-the-show-me-state/