One of several tax cut bills backed by Missouri Republicans took an important step forward Tuesday night by passing the state Senate.
The bill, introduced by House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, still faces another round of approval by the House after senators amended it.
Senators approved Haahr's bill 24-9. It now heads back to the House for another round of approval with only days left in the regular legislative session. House members could agree with the Senate version and pass the bill quickly or send it to a conference committee to hash out differences.
Originally, Haahr's bill would have cut individual and corporate rates, allowed the state to start collecting online sales tax, halted tax cuts for LLCs, eliminated deductions for Missourians' federal taxes, eliminated a property tax deduction for renters and increased licensing fees to create a dedicated stream of money for Missouri's roads, which the Missouri Department of Transportation says are $825 million short on high-priority needs alone.
Now, the bill cuts individual rates and eliminates some deductions, but has been pared down significantly.
"I think that's probably the best, most simple version of tax reform that we're shooting for right now," said Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles County.
Traci Gleason, director of communications for the left-leaning Missouri Budget Project, warned against Republican tax cut bills in a statement. The groups says the bills would raise taxes on many lower-income Missourians to cut taxes for the wealthy and add woes to the state's already troubled budget.
"Legislators have already been struggling to fund basic services like K-12 education, higher education, and infrastructure, and have pitted services for kids against services for seniors and Missourians with disabilities," Gleason said.
Eigel sponsored another tax cut bill that got hung up in the Senate. His would have been largely similar to Haahr's original bill, but would have raised taxes on gas to fund roads.
“I think ultimately we came to the realization or feeling that trying to address transportation on this bill wasn’t a good fit," Eigel said during floor debate.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, chair of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, urged fellow senators to continue the conversation on raising the gas tax to fund roads. He is sponsoring a bill to raise the tax from $0.17 to $0.27 per gallon, but it has yet to pass the Senate.
"Exactly 72 hours from now, it's going to be over and we still have a bill that needs to go to the House and hopefully get a vote on transportation funding," Schatz said.
Missouri's regular legislative session ends Friday at 6 p.m. and will be followed immediately by a special session to consider impeaching Gov. Eric Greitens.