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During final hours of session, Missouri Senate kills tax credit, transportation tax proposals

Publish Date: 2013-05-17 12:49:47 Authors: Jo Mannies and Jason Rosenbaum and Jason Rosenbaum Position: Beacon political reporter and During final hours of session, Missouri Senate kills tax credit, transportation tax proposals Hours before adjournment for the year, a state Senate filibuster appears to have killed a tax credit package that had won approval from the House just a couple hours earlier.

The package had been assembled by House and Senate conferees late Thursday and approved by leaders in both chambers.

Brad Lager
Brad Lager

But a group of dissident senators – including Brad Lager, R-Savannah, and John Lamping, R-Ladue – had been critical of any deal that didn’t include dramatic cuts in tax credits.

Lager was filibustering Friday when Senate leaders pulled the package. Among other things, he asserted that fellow Republicans leading the state House were "corrupt."

Earlier Friday, the same filibustering group had blocked an attempt to resurrect a proposed transportation sales tax that business groups, including those in St. Louis, had sought to put on the 2014 ballot. The senators initially had blocked that measure with a lengthy filibuster late Tuesday.

Mike Kehoe
Mike Kehoe

After the transportation tax measure was shelved, state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told reporters that the issue would likely have to go through the initiative petition process. He added he was unsure whether the various stakeholders would shell out the expense to get the amendment on the ballot.

The tax credit package would have trimmed Missouri’s low-income and historic tax credits but would have added some new ones – such as one encouraging “angel’’ investors – sought by St. Louis business leaders and Mayor Francis Slay.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, talks to reporters after the legislative death of a transportation tax increase.

Also killed were proposed tax credits to encourage freight-forwarders to send cargo to underutilized Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.  Put in jeopardy are the "New Markets'' tax credits that, without the package, are set to expire in August.

Ironically, the upshot of the filibuster is to preserve the higher caps on the low-income and historic tax credits, which the filibustering senators have wanted to lower dramatically for years.

The unsuccessful package would have lowered the caps on the two programs to $90 million for historic credits (now $140 million) and $110 for the low-income credits (now $135 million a year).  Lager and his allies had wanted much lower caps, below $50 million apiece for historic and low-income credits.

Tim Jones
Tim Jones

State House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, led the House drive for the package. He noted Thursday that the two major tax-credit programs already have been cut in 2009 but added that he and other supporters were willing to cut them further in exchange for other constructive tax-credit programs.

Jones also had called for the Senate at least to allow an up-or-down vote on the tax credits. That apparently isn’t going to happen this session.

Soon after state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, brought the measure to the Senate floor on Friday, it came under immediate attack from Lager.

Lager said that the cuts in the package didn’t go far enough – adding that “we shouldn’t take a deal that’s a bad deal.”

He then ripped the House's leadership, contending that Senate shouldn’t “cave because the leadership in the House is corrupt.”

Eric Schmitt
Eric Schmitt

'“I don’t know how we get to this resolution when the folks that we’re negotiating with put the special interests above the people,” Lager said. “Just because we can’t get the House to move to where we are doesn’t mean that we should cave.”

Schmitt eventually withdrew the bill, ending debate on the issue for the year. In an interview, Schmitt called the legislation’s demise “unfortunate.”

“At some point, we’ve got to get to a resolution on this issue,” Schmitt said. “It’s been around for a few years. As I said on the floor, we should not let the perfect be the 'enemy of the good.' There’s significant savings – nearly a half a billion dollars of savings – in that bill, along with programs that people believe in.”

In other action

The General Assembly did, however, pass legislation to guarantee state aid for several childrens' programs that had gotten caught up in an unrelated dispute between Republican legislative leaders and the governor.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, answers questions some of the legislative sessions unfinished business, including Kehoe's transportation tax.

The House on Friday approved an amendment to HB 986, inserted by the Senate, that creates the Senior Protection Fund and inserts close to $56 million  to pay for children's programs, including First Steps, an early education program for developmentally disabled children.

Nixon earlier had vetoed a bill that had set up the Senior Protection Fund, but also repealed a separate longstanding aid program, called the "circuit breaker,'' for elderly and disabled renters.

Nixon earlier had backed the circuit breaker repeal, but wanted it to be part of a broader tax-credit reform package. He also had called for Senior Protection Fund to have money for programs to aid the elderly.

The House had put the childrens' programs into the fund instead, with the aim to force the governor to choose between aid programs for children or the elderly.

Friday's action ends that dispute and funds all the programs.

Among the other measures that won final approval on Friday were:

  • A bill (SB127) making changes to Missouri's Medicaid program, also called MoHealthNet, including reauthorization of “Ticket to Work,’’ an existing state program for disabled adults that offers special personal care so they can work. The bill also allows foster children to stay on the state's Medicaid rolls until they are 26, in line with federal insurance mandates.
  • A bill (HB533) that allows state employees to keep guns in their vehicles while parked in state-owned parking lots as long as the firearms are not visible.

Jo Mannies Beacon political reporter and Jason Rosenbaum Beacon staff

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.