Barbara Shelly

A break in Jefferson City gridlock? You never know

Updated: 2014-02-16T00:01:36Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Wait, you mean our elected representatives in Jefferson City might actually accomplish something meaningful this session?

Maybe. Just possibly. Could be.

Gov. Jay Nixon made news today when he told the Missouri Press Association that he’s been talking with legislators, including Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, about a tax cut bill.

“This week we made some real progress,” Nixon said.

Missouri watchers will remember that the Democratic governor vetoed an income tax bill last year, and spent the summer barnstorming the state putting pressure on lawmakers to sustain his veto. They did.

Republicans are anxious not to repeat that performance. But they’re also kind of desperate to pass tax cuts, just to show that they can.

Nixon said he would be amenable to a broad-based tax cut under certain conditions. Those include:

• The state would have to fully fund the foundation formula for elementary and secondary schools before cutting taxes.

• The revenue lost to tax cuts would have to be at least partially offset by reforms in some of Missouri’s out-of-control tax credit programs. Presumably that includes the two big ones, historical preservation and low-income housing. Both Nixon and Kraus have said those programs are inefficient and promote waste.

• Tax cuts couldn’t be designated for “pass through” business arrangements, by which income is passed through a firm directly to an owner. These are the centerpiece of Kansas’ controversial tax cuts, but Nixon said they encourage “creative accounting.”

Some Republicans already are saying that a deal which meets Nixon’s conditions would be too small. But it’s also clear they don’t want another veto defeat just before the fall elections. So this might be the year we see some long-awaited reform of tax credits, along with a limited tax cut.

Could be. Possibly. Maybe.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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