Government & Politics

With end of session in sight, Missouri lawmakers press forward on tax cuts

Missouri Capitol
Missouri Capitol File photo

Just a week before the end of Missouri's legislative session, two tax cut packages are moving through the General Assembly, but both face hurdles before they could become law.

Because of changes in both bills, provisions may have to be hashed out in conference committees between the House and Senate.

"I'll remain optimistic until 6 o'clock next Friday," said House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield.

Haahr has been one of several Republicans sponsoring various tax cut packages, and the next week will be crucial in their effort to get one to Gov. Eric Greitens' desk.

Missouri Republicans have been focused on cutting individual and corporate rates, but their tax bills have been altered along the way. Time is short to pass a tax cut package that critics warn could hinder state government at a time Missouri is already struggling to pay its bills.

Haahr's bill, which would focus on an individual income tax cut, has made it through the House and a Senate committee. It's awaiting a full Senate vote.

Waiting for a House vote is a bill sponsored by Andrew Koenig, R-St. Louis County, that would cut individual and corporate rates.

Two of the pillars Republicans wanted to focus on in a tax cut were the individual and corporate rates, Haahr said. His original bill also would have raised licensing fees to boost revenue to use on the state's roads."But I still am pretty hopeful and optimistic about what we can accomplish in the next week."

The Missouri Budget Project, a left-leaning think tank, is still evaluating its positions on the altered bills, said Traci Gleason, the organization's director of communications.

“I think the greater concern, though, with the bill is this is all moving so fast, and there’s a week left of session,” Gleason said.

She added: “Any rushed legislation that would make it even more difficult for our state to meet the needs of its community is unwise."

An altered version of Koenig's bill could also cross the finish line next week.

Koenig's original bill would cut individual and corporate rates and change the way the state collects taxes from businesses. A budget analysis estimated it would bring in an additional $45 million once fully implemented in 2025.

Neither Haahr's nor Koenig's bill would dedicate revenue for Missouri highways. The Missouri Department of Transportation says it needs an additional $825 million for high-priority needs alone.

Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Franklin County, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the House and Senate would have to communicate on the impacts of the two bills as they move forward.

"I can see us making sure that however we do it, we're going to have to really work together because we're talking about the financial situation of the state," Curtman said.

Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Kansas City, said the state should be looking for ways to raise revenue, not cut taxes. Many of the painful cuts to health programs lawmakers made last year have not been restored, Carpenter said.

"Just last year we passed $500 million in cuts because we didn't have enough revenue coming in. We had a budget shortfall," Carpenter said. "Most of those cuts have been extended through to this year, and that's a real problem for a lot of Missourians, whether you're a college student trying to go to school and have an affordable education, whether you're a senior citizen or a person with a disability who had their services slashed by Republicans in Jefferson City."