State Sen. Rob Schaaf calls it “the bill that will make all other bills better.”
The idea, which Schaaf calls the “Taxation with Representation Act,” would provide $100 tax credits to taxpayers who make qualifying political donations.
So giving a candidate $100 will save $100 on your taxes.
Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, says the hope is that it will inspire a wider range of people to participate in the political process, as well as encourage elected officials to fund their campaign through small-dollar donors instead of wealthy individuals or corporations.
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“It would decentralize the funding of political campaigns, diluting the influence of big-money special interests and making government more accountable to the people,” he said.
The idea got its first airing during a hearing of the Missouri Senate’s rules, joint rules, resolutions and ethics committee on Tuesday morning, and Schaaf said he was also scheduled to discuss the plan with Gov. Eric Greitens later in the morning.
If Missouri lawmakers sign off on the legislation, the state would join a handful of others that offer similar incentives.
In Minnesota, an annual refund of $50 for an individual or $100 for a married couple is available for donations to state candidates or political parties.
In Oregon, those who make less than $200,000 jointly, or $100,000 individually, can claim a $50 tax credit for political contributions.
Other states that offer similar credits are Arkansas, Ohio and Virginia.
The bill is projected to cost the state around $4.9 million. But the tax credit would be non-refundable, so savings would not be allowed to exceed the amount of taxes owed.
Schaaf’s son, Robert, helped his father research and craft the legislation. He told the Senate committee that while 30 to 50 percent of Missourians regularly vote in elections, only 1 percent contribute to political campaigns.
“This will help draw more citizens into the political process,” he said. “Most people feel like they can’t have a meaningful influence on elections. They look at the way campaigns are funded and see a tiny subset of citizens and corporations are providing the vast majority of campaign funding.”
Elected officials spend a lot of their time talking to those who donate to their campaigns, said Morris Pearl, a retired director for the New York City-based firm BlackRock Investments. And most money in Missouri politics, “comes from people like me.”
Pearl, who serves as chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, a Washington, D.C.,-based advocacy group made up of high-net worth Americans, said Schaaf’s bill could help less wealthy individuals play a role in Missouri politics.
“Instead of talking to three people like me giving $2,000 each,” he told the committee Tuesday, “you can talk with 60 of your constituents who can give $100 each, who believe in you.”