It’s hard to believe that summer has flown by and that we’re already into fall. As of this writing, we’re finally getting some much needed rain. I’m glad to see the rain get here, along with the more typical fall-like temperatures. This is definitely my favorite time of year!
Although we have been in the interim, your Representative has been busy between hosting the International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) 1000 yard Nationals Championship at our range (Midwest Benchrest), trying to get caught up on property boundary surveys, and visiting with constituents from across the district. Over the last couple of weeks I have enjoyed numerous events, including the Roby Fire Department parade/dinner, the benefit fish fry at the Summersville Mill, Cabool’s Old Tyme Days, and also celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the VFW Hall in Cabool. I was honored to attend a fantastic lunch, after which I then presented a Resolution from Missouri’s House of Representatives to VFW Post Commander Rudy Blahnik. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day for us to say “Thank You.” We owe a tremendous debt to those (and their families) that willingly fight for our freedom, and ANY day is a great opportunity to show our appreciation for their sacrifice.
On September 11, both chambers of the Missouri Legislature were called back into session to consider the Governor’s Vetoes. Of the roughly 1600 bills that were filed during the regular session in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate, 164 were “Truly Agreed and Finally Passed,” and subsequently sent to the Governor (to be signed, not signed, or vetoed). Of these 164, the Governor chose to sign/not sign 135 of the bills (which ultimately enacts them), and to veto the other 29. In the history of our state, there have only been a total of 24 vetoes overridden, with 16 of those 24 coming at a time which only required a simple majority. Today, a 2/3 majority (by both the House and the Senate) is required to override a veto, which equates to 109 votes in the House, and 23 votes in the senate. Of the 29 bills vetoed, 10 were overridden – which is historic given the difficulty in achieving a 2/3 majority on any issue. In this and future reports, I will be detailing a number of bills in which the Governor’s veto was both overridden and sustained.
HB 253 (Tax Cut Bill – veto sustained):
It has been said that the regular session is about “policy” and the veto session is about “politics”; with the months and days leading up to September 11 confirming this statement. I’m not aware of any other legislative proposal (in the regular or veto session) that received as much attention, with as much information and (frankly) mis-information surrounding it. Governor Nixon made this bill the centerpiece of his summer-long campaign to support/sustain his vetoes, travelling the state delivering speeches ridden with flawed reasoning and inaccuracies about the realities of this bill. It is much easier to say that this legislation “will hurt education, seniors, and our mentally disabled,” than to explain the facts of this bill and how it ultimately affect our state revenues and services. The Governor deserves credit for winning the “messaging war,” even if his statement’s weren’t accurate. If you believed or bought into his propaganda, I’m sorry, but you were sold a “bad bill of goods,” which I will detail in the following explanation.
Although this is rather lengthy, I would urge the complete reading of this section to fully understand why I supported HB253. What HB253 would actually do:
Reduces the individual tax rate, for those making over $9,000 from 6% to 5.5%, by reducing the rate by .05% per year over 10 years.
Create a new individual exemption of $1,000 for those making less than $20,000 per year, or for couples filing jointly making less than $40,000 per year.
Creates a 50% business income exemption (phased in at 10% per year, over 5 years) for businesses that are not incorporated (Sole Proprietors, LLC’s, S-Corp.’s – i.e. “small businesses”) and are currently taxed at the individual rate rather than the corporate tax rate.
Reduces the corporate tax rate from 6.25% to 3.25%, by reducing the rate .3% per year for 10 years.
In the event and only if the U.S. Congress passes and the President signs the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act (FMFA – Internet sales tax), the individual personal income tax rate would be reduced by an additional .5%.
The aforementioned reductions are conditional upon a KEY REQUIREMENT that state revenues must INCREASE by $100,000,000 (100 Million) over the previous year’s revenue, for the next phased-in reduction to occur. Despite Governor Nixon’s claims and what many in the educational community believed, based on the provisions within this bill, it is FUNDAMENTALLY IMPOSSIBLE for state revenues to “fall of a cliff” or drop thereby hurting and or reducing educational funding.
To the contrary, I believe that this may be one of the only options of reaching the funding level of the current formula; by improving/growing our economy and the total amount available through attracting new jobs and businesses. Concerning educational funding, it is important to note the following. In the current FY2014, I personally increased school transportation funding through the Budget Committee, and the entire Legislature increased K-12 funding by over $66,000,000. Although these funding INCREASES haven’t received a lot of publicity, they were part of the $400,000,000 unconstitutionally withheld (which will be dealt with in the upcoming session) by the Governor to politically pressure the educational community and other members not to override his veto.
The two problems (“drafting errors”) with this bill revolved around the tax-free status of prescription medications and text books. This occurred through the misplacement of a bracket “[” onto the wrong side of a word in the lengthy FMFA portion of the bill. I (along with every other member of the legislature) bear some culpability for missing this error, but there is more to the story. While we heard in the numerous speeches about how this was going to hurt seniors and students, again, the truth wasn’t part of the messaging. In reality, this was slated to go into effect on January 1, 2015. Had the veto been overridden, one of the first bills passed in January 2014 would have corrected the oversight. Another important issue that was never publicized, deals with the origin of this language. In an effort to work with the Governor on these important issues, this portion of the bill was provided to the bill sponsor by the Governor’s Administration. It may never be known whether this error was intentional or not; but it is important to understand the complete story in context with all of the claims that have been made.
HB 253 was a very structured, measured, responsible approach to reducing the burden of Government upon individuals and small businesses, and would have been a welcome improvement for our stagnant economy, by attracting new businesses to Missouri and stopping the mass-exodus near our State’s borders. It was considerably different than the Kansas tax cut, which reduced the top rate from 6.45% to 4.9%, in one year. As evidenced by this lengthy explanation, it is much more difficult to consider the facts as contained in the bill, rather than to mislead the public with the simple message of “our kids, seniors, and mentally challenged will be hurt.” While there may be those that philosophically disagree with the mindset of growing our economy through reducing the burden of Government upon the individual, it is one of my core beliefs, which is shared by an overwhelming majority of this district. I firmly believe that we as individuals know better of how to spend our money than the bureaucrats of Washington D.C. or Jefferson City.
Governor Nixon stated, “You can support this bill, or support public education; but you can’t support both.”
This is a very complex issue that is difficult to explain, and reminds me of the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”, because this really is a “he says” versus “we say” type of situation. Based on my legislative actions, and that of the entire Legislature in increasing funding for our public schools, and that of the Governor in “playing politics” by withholding the funding that was slated for many of the needs of our state; the choice is yours in deciding who to believe. I will continue fighting for our school’s funding, and to reduce the government burden/over-regulation of our businesses and hard-earned dollars.
I’ve ran “long” in discussing this issue, so we’ll cover some of the other issues from veto session in future reports.
As always, please do not hesitate to call or write me anytime with your questions or thoughts on this or any other issue. My Capitol office is 573.751.1490 and my email is Robert.Ross@house.mo.gov. Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives.