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Missouri Chamber pushes for governor to sign employee ownership tax break

Dan Mehan of the Missouri Chamber testifies against the proposed constitutional amendment, saying it would have a negative economic impact on Missouri.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Legislation designed to expand the number of employee-owned businesses in Missouri is awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon's signature.

House Bill 2030 would give business owners a 50 percent tax deduction if their companies are at least 30 percent employee owned. It was sponsored by House Speaker Pro-tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

"It provides that opportunity for employees to have the American Dream, be a part owner in a business," Hoskins said during a conference call Wednesday. "I think study after study shows that when, as an employee, you are a part owner in the business that you are working for, your productivity increases, your sense of pride and workmanship increases, and it not only benefits the company, but benefits self esteem for the worker as well."

Missouri Chamber CEO Dan Mehan added that the proposed tax break would provide an incentive for retirees to sell their businesses to their employees and help keep those jobs in-state.

"As opposed to running the risk of, as a lot of baby boomers are these days, moving out of the business and offering it up on the auction block for anyone outside of the state or even outside of the country, or just closing their doors," Mehan said. "We see (this measure) as an important tool to make sure that a lot of Missouri employers, small and mid-sized companies as well as large, remain in the state as viable options for the state's economic fabric."

The conference call touting the proposal included executives from two Kansas City-based companies that are already employee-owned: Garney Construction, and Burns & McDonnell. Neither company can benefit from the bill if it becomes law, since each already meets the 30 percent minimum threshold for employee ownership.

"We wish it had existed 31 years ago, so we could have benefited from it," said Denny Scott, Burns & McDonnell's chief financial officer. "The (employee stock ownership) laws at the time gave us a chance to own ourselves ... we are much appreciative of the federal government back in those days, and now the state of Missouri for doing the right thing and giving an opportunity for employees to own their company."

Nixon has not yet indicated whether he'll sign the bill. It passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers: 128-14 in the House and 28-2 in the Senate.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.