The Associated Press
St. Joseph News-Press, May 7
GOP due credit for cuts:
Opponents of GOP-sponsored tax relief in Missouri see a looming disaster on the horizon. Frankly, we don’t see anything like that.
The tax measure that will now become law over Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto is not anything like the deep tax cut plan enacted in Kansas. It is markedly less ambitious than the plan offered a year ago in Missouri. It is far more responsible and measured than has been suggested at any time by our disappointed governor.
Make your own judgment:
— Three years from now — but only if state tax revenues are growing — Missourians will see the first one-tenth of one percent cut in state income taxes. The top tax rate of 6 percent would decline to 5.9 percent in that first year. It would be the first cut in the state income tax rate since 1921.
— If state revenues continue to increase by at least $150 million over their high point of the previous three years, then another one-tenth would be cut in year two and so on until the new top rate is reduced to 5.5 percent. The earliest this could occur would be in 2021.
— In similar phased-in fashion, thousands of people involved in business partnerships, limited liability corporations and their own ventures would benefit from a 25 percent deduction for business income reported on personal tax returns.
We accept there will be continuing debate over whether this measure can prompt increased business investment in Missouri — which we think is a real possibility. But even without that result, the tax cuts will provide a modest benefit to millions of taxpayers and restrain the growth of government.
The core calculation is that in an expanding economy, government can afford to share the wealth with taxpayers and still advance its aims in serving the state’s residents. The alternative is to cede to government a rising tide of tax money without imposing the kind of fiscal restraint that, in fact, can prompt it to become more efficient.
We think a strong majority of Missourians understand this point, and they should know they are not alone. As the Associated Press reported May 6, more than a third of all states in the union have approved cuts to income taxes in the past two years.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 6
Tax-cut veto override a knockout blow for Missouri’s future:
On the website of Missourinet.com is a video shot at a charity mixed martial arts event in Jefferson City two weeks ago. One of the fighters, state Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, opened his bout by kicking his opponent, David Tate of Mexico, in the groin.
On May 5, Mr. English did pretty much the same thing to Missouri’s poor, working poor and most of its middle class.
Mr. English, a union electrician elected in 2012 with heavy support from organized labor, became the sole Democrat to side with the House’s 108 Republicans, providing the two-thirds majority needed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a huge and destructive tax-cut bill. On May 5, the Senate voted to override the veto. That means Senate Bill 509 now becomes law. Look out below.
Missouri’s race to the bottom in terms of support for education and other state services will accelerate as the tax cuts are phased in over five years beginning in 2017. By 2022, as much as $800 million a year will be cut from an already deeply stressed state budget.
Count on well-connected developers in the tax-credit lobby being first in line. Colleges, universities, K-12 education, social services and corrections can fight for what’s left over.
The override is a victory for St. Louis mega-donor and conservative activist Rex Sinquefied. Mr. Sinquefield believes, without much empirical evidence, that lower income taxes will encourage business growth, even in a state whose corporate tax rate is already 8th-lowest in the nation. If he’s right, Senate Bill 509 will create more than enough growth to replace the revenue it eliminates.
But if he’s wrong — and the evidence from Kansas, where he promoted even deeper tax cuts, suggests that he is — then even today’s Show-Me Mediocrity will be but a distant dream. The 1980 Hancock Amendment will prevent the Legislature from undoing what it has done; it takes a vote of the people to raise taxes.
Eventually Missourians will wake up to the disaster that unfolded this spring, but absent a successful court challenge, it could take decades. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people will suffer. Schools will turn out graduates massively unprepared for the knowledge economy. College will become even less affordable.
SB 509’s sponsors emphasized that the cuts won’t take place unless state revenue grows by at least $150 million a year over the high point of the previous three years. That’s bogus; it takes $250 million more each year just to stay even.
Some bottom-feeding businesses may find the state marginally more attractive. If your dream is a job in a poultry-processing plant or on a loading dock, you may be in luck. Plus, by 2022 the state income tax rate on your poverty-level job will be 5.5 percent, not 6 percent.
If you manage better than that and your household income is at the state median of $45,321 and you come up with $9,000 worth of deductions, you’ll save $32 in taxes on your adjusted gross income.
Of course, your kids’ schools will be cruddier. You’ll have to pay more for college. You’ll see more weeds along the highways, probably more potholes. It may take the Highway Patrol and agriculture inspectors longer to get to you. Little things like that will make the state a much less attractive place to live and do business.
However, if you own or share in the ownership of a business — lawyers, doctors, dentists, mechanics, taco truck operators, major league baseball team owners, etc. — rejoice. You’ll be able to deduct 25 percent of the business income that you “pass through” and file as personal income. If your business clears a hundred grand, you’ll pay state taxes on only $75,000.
Nationally, some 94 percent of all corporations are pass-through entities. Their owners will be getting a bigger tax cut than the employees who helped create the profits. Don’t put your savings in the bank. Expand your business, otherwise Missouri will wind up like Kansas, which is a good thing in basketball and wheat, but not so much in business activity or credit worthiness.
One more thing: It’s possible, given the sloppy way that SB 509 was drafted, that the entire top tax bracket will go away once it reaches 5.5 percent. If courts see it like that, Missouri will lose 97 percent of its income tax revenue. It’ll be time to turn out the lights.
Mr. English, a wiry wireman from IBEW Local 1, is getting a lot of attention for betraying his party, his union supporters and his working-class North County constituents. Nonetheless, the bet here is that he won’t have any trouble raising money for re-election this fall.
But he doesn’t deserve all the blame. No, there were 108 Republicans in the House and 23 in the Senate who also voted “aye” on the motion to override.
Many of them are from rural Missouri, where the need for state services is high but antipathy toward taxes runs deep. Others are from suburban districts, where there is profound ignorance about the role that fair taxes play in a just society. For most of these legislators, the saving grace is that when Missouri starts to scrape bottom, they’ll be long gone. Term limits will have driven them from the public eye. They won’t have to try to fix the mess they made.
Here a special nod to former Republican House speaker-turned-high-priced-lawyer Catherine Hanaway of Ladue. She has announced her intention to run for governor in 2016; she was in the Capitol last week to underscore her support for the veto override.
Should she win, she’ll get to try to balance the budget in 2017 and thereafter. Good luck with that.
Blame, too, whatever is left of the sensible Main Street Republican Party in Missouri, the party of former U.S. senators like Jack Danforth and Kit Bond, the party of corporate donors from the Kansas City and St. Louis business communities. They stood by as kamikaze conservatives hijacked their party. When these “corporate leaders” talk about economic development, remember that when it came time to take a stand, they took a powder.
Last year, Mr. Nixon was able to turn back an override attempt on an even worse tax-cut bill. He worked it like a campaign. This year, with less time to campaign, the Democratic governor couldn’t turn a single GOP vote, nor hold Mr. English. The governor and his supporters in organized labor were outworked, outfoxed and outspent. Now a generation of Missourians will pay the price.
By the way: In that mixed martial arts bout, Mr. Tate recovered from being kicked in the groin. But Mr. English dropped him a minute or so later. With a straight right.
The Joplin Globe, May 7
State GOP lost focus:
Legislators are generally serious people going about serious business, but every once in a while a handful of them get together and rev themselves up so high that they throw a rod.
Such was the case with the impeachment talk making its way through the halls of the Capitol this spring.
There were a couple of peripheral claims, such as the one by state Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, who filed his impeachment resolution in the House because he is unhappy that Gov. Jay Nixon sometimes waited months to fill vacated positions.
That was just lunacy from Moon.
But at the heart of the matter was the claim by state Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, who claims Nixon violated the Missouri Constitution and state law when he issued an executive order allowing the Missouri Department of Revenue to begin accepting joint tax returns from same-sex couples.
Think what you wish on the question of gay marriage, but this was a straightforward executive action, within the governor’s purview.
Just last week, the chairman of the Missouri House panel considering these impeachment resolutions announced that the committee won’t advance the measures to the House floor.
We’ve invested too much time and energy on them.
If Republicans had continued to push forward on this — not that they didn’t go too far already — it would have damaged their credibility and undermined their agenda. There are more important topics that warrant more consideration and discussion, and Republicans have serious points to make about tax reform, health care, economic development, the environment and other issues.
But it’s time for some of them to ratchet up from nonsense to horse sense.
Jefferson City News-Tribune, May 8
Undignified ‘Rally for Dignity’:
A “Rally for Dignity” on May 7 descended into undignified shouting from the Senate gallery.
And that’s a shame, because the disruption could be counter-productive for the organizers, Missouri Faith Voices.
An estimated 300 group members, including area pastors, participated in a rally at the Capitol to encourage Medicare expansion. The rally was followed by chanting and shouting from the Senate gallery, which resulted in a delay of Senate action and the arrests of 23 clergy members who disobeyed Capitol Police instructions to leave the gallery.
John Bennett, a retired local pastor, said “the reason I am here is because — for want of Medicaid expansion — 12 people die each week in the state of Missouri.”
And the Rev. W.T. Edmonson, president of Faith Voices of Jefferson City, said: “We’re simply saying, as people of faith, we have to speak out for the ‘least of these.’ Yeah, we interrupted the Senate, but how else were we going to be heard? We’ve done everything else!”
Those voices express both passion and frustration.
Because arrests were made, the concept of civil disobedience comes to mind.
Civil disobedience applies to intentional resistance to a law, which occurred after the disruption when instructions to vacate were disobeyed. The shouting itself was more akin to lobbying — relaying a message — than civil disobedience.
Will the manner of expression, disruption, advance or retard their message?
The reaction from lawmakers essentially was “we get it.”
Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said: “We deal with very serious and, sometimes, contentious issues which stir people’s passion in the chamber and outside the chamber. At the end of the day, I don’t think that disrupting the Senate is a good tactic.”
Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, added: “Unfortunately, I don’t think that type of protest is helpful to my efforts to try to get this to a vote. We have to employ tactics that further the strategy, not hinder it.”
Senate decorum is a tradition respected by members of the upper chamber.
Missouri Faith Voices are likely to find their message is heard more convincingly when it is delivered with the dignity its members seek.