You might think that Missouri would be glad to have missed out on the five years and counting of pain and regret that have followed the ill-conceived Kansas tax cuts.
But instead, undeterred by polling that suggests the federal tax cuts Republicans in Congress recently passed are deeply unpopular, Republicans in Missouri say hey, they want some of that.
If all goes as planned, they’ll cut the top income tax rate, eliminate the bottom four brackets and eventually phase out the income tax altogether. Eat your heart out, Sam Brownback. One of the sponsors of this plan, state Sen. Bill Eigel, says it will be the largest tax cut in state history.
We do like the part of the plan that would increase the state’s gas tax to 23 cents per gallon from 17 cents. That’s money that Eigel and state Rep. Travis Fitzwater say would be used only for road and bridge projects. With a tax cut this deep and wide, we might otherwise have to let the already lightly repaired I-70 go back to nature. (Restore the prairie grasslands!) As always, supporters insist they’d offset the lost revenue by doing away with various tax credits and loopholes. But also as always, lawmakers can be counted on to look first to the most vulnerable Missourians, to see what they might be able to live without. Cuts to home care for the disabled and elderly, maybe? Nope, already did that.
Traci Gleason, of the left-leaning Missouri Budget Project, has pointed out that in a state already struggling to fund schools, doing away with taxes would do a lot of harm. And unlike in Kansas, where lawmakers eventually reversed course, “our constitution requires a statewide vote for a tax increase, so it would be very difficult to turn back.”
Fitzwater told The Star that the Missouri cuts would be nothing like the Kansas cuts because they’d be “very thoughtful.” His co-cutter Eigel said they didn’t work out as planned in Kansas because “they were unwilling to make the corresponding cuts on the expenditure side.”
But that simply isn’t true. Nine rounds of budget cuts later, they didn’t want to go any deeper. After public schools had been stripped to the studs, Kansans said no more. After reserve funds had been drained, they said make it stop. If anything like this proposed plan passes in Missouri, that’s what we can look forward to, too.
Meanwhile, Missouri will get $58 million less in state revenue as a result of the federal tax cut. That’s in addition, of course, to the state tax cut that will slice the top rate as of Jan. 1 and exempt some “pass-through” business income, too. But Republicans promise that’s just the beginning.