As the finish line for session approaches, the legislative process accelerates and members get more serious as they realize that time is short. But before we hit the gas, there’s usually a slight pause.
By this time most of the big-ticket legislation has already crossed chambers, but isn’t quite ready to be passed on the other side of the building. This week the Missouri House spent most of its time on “small” bills. These include bills dealing with non-profit food preparation, student assessments, water fluoridation, diabetes prevention, and intoxicating liquor on boats.
And we also passed two big bills. We sent a historic tax cut to Gov. Nixon, and we passed a constitutional amendment to increase early voting.
House Passes Historic Tax Cut for All Missourians
For the past decade, Missouri’s economic development approach was central planning. The focus has been on special subsidies for big businesses with the ability to hire lobbyists with access to the legislature and the ability to grease the skids at the Department of Economic Development. This approach works well for gubernatorial press conferences, but not job growth. The worst example of this was from this December when Gov. Jay Nixon asked – and the legislature delivered (but I voted no) – a $2.4 billion corporate tax subsidy offer to Boeing.
This week, the House resisted central planning style economic development. We pivoted from big businesses to every Missourian by sending Gov. Nixon legislation which would reduce taxes for everyone. gradually reduces the state’s top tax rate by a little more than 8 percent, and the tax rate for small business owners by 25 percent. This tax relief is phased-in with small annual reductions contingent on actual growth in state revenues. In addition, the bill adjusts our tax brackets for inflation and increases the personal exemption by $1,000 for married couples with less than $20,000 in annual income.
I joined with 102 of my Republican colleagues to vote for the bill. Just one Democrat voted yes. Gov. Nixon has 15 days to sign the bill. Expect a veto – and a quick showdown. Because there’s more than 15 days remaining, an override attempt will occur before the end of session. It’s going to be close – really close.
Early Voting Resolution Sent to Senate
On Wednesday, the House also passed legislation to increase opportunities for early voting. For statewide general elections, would open the polls three Saturdays before Election Day. The resolution passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.
Some Democrats criticized the bill because it didn’t start voting early enough or have long enough hours. They would prefer voting to begin six weeks before Election Day – so they voted no. Their opposition is a prime example of people who allow perfect to be the enemy of good.
I would prefer Early Voting that’s limited to just a week or two before traditional Election Day. Think of an election like a court case. Each campaign team gets months to make their case, and they expect to make their closing arguments in the last few weeks. We wouldn’t want juries in a court case to decide before the parties could make their closing argument – so why should we short-circuit the democratic process?
Sen. Kehoe’s Small Business Unemployment Tax Protection Bill Advances
, sponsored by our own Sen. Mike Kehoe, made its way through the House Committee on Workforce Development this week. This bill protects small business owners by tying the length of unemployment benefits to the state unemployment rates. Unemployment benefits are intended to serve as a bridge to help people who lose work, through no fault of their own, to maintain an income for a reasonable time until they can find another job.
Under current law, the length of unemployment benefits is not tied to the economy. But if the purpose of unemployment is merely to provide a stopgap, so a person who has been laid-off can obtain new employment, then length of benefits should be tethered to the status of the economy.
SB 673 provides for longer benefits in a rough economy and shorter benefits in a boom economy. In a bad economy, benefits will be available for nearly five months. In a great economy, they would be available for just over three months. This change will lower the costs of unemployment taxes for small businesses throughout the state because it ties a government benefit to its overall need.
I was honored that Sen. Kehoe asked me to carry this legislation in the House and look forward to getting the bill to Governor Nixon’s desk.