Editorials

Missouri lawmakers gave corporations tax cuts and plenty more. But what about workers?

The Star asked its panel of Influencers about the effect of term limits on Missouri state politics. Most say it has shifted power to lobbyists.
The Star asked its panel of Influencers about the effect of term limits on Missouri state politics. Most say it has shifted power to lobbyists. File photo

While most of Missouri was properly focused on the scandals surrounding Gov. Eric Greitens this year, the state legislature quietly continued its assault on workers and wage earners in favor of corporate interests.

You may have heard, for example, that lawmakers voted to cut individual income tax rates in Missouri. Less noticed was a bill slashing the corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4 percent.

Supporters insist the corporate tax cuts will bring jobs and businesses to Missouri. There is no evidence that will be the case. Instead, businesses are likely to put the extra cash in the pockets of owners and investors, while needed state programs run short of funds.

The damage will become evident when the tax cut takes effect in 2020. But voters should be clear: The reduction is just one part of an effort to sublimate the interests of workers to corporations:

▪ Legislators dismantled much of the merit system, which is designed to protect state employees from improper political influence. Thousands of state workers could soon face dismissal when political power changes hands.

▪ Lawmakers passed a series of changes to labor laws involving some public sector unions. Those unions must now seek recertification every three years, and employees must give annual consent to have dues or fees deducted from their checks.

▪ Under a bill passed this year, public bodies will be permitted to pay less than the prevailing wage to workers on small projects. This will be particularly damaging to workers in rural Missouri.

▪ Missouri voters will be asked in August if they want to throw out the right-to-work law passed last year. Under that measure, workers in unionized businesses can opt out of paying their costs for representation.

Supporters of repeal gathered signatures to force the referendum and wanted a November election. But GOP legislators moved the date to the low-turnout primary, hoping to save the right-to-work law.

These choices are not made in isolation. Last year, lawmakers made it harder for workers to claim discrimination. They also thwarted efforts to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City and St. Louis.

And while Missouri works overtime to protect corporations, it ignores the working poor by failing to expand Medicaid and failing to enact a refundable tax credit for low-wage earners.

Legislators did make significant progress on some issues this session, and their work on the Greitens scandals has been thorough and fair.

But Missourians should know: Their representatives seem willing to hand much of the state’s agenda to business owners while ignoring the interests of the people.

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