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Missouri’s delay on a special session means a lack of agreement, Democrats say

The Missouri State Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri lawmakers were supposed to gather at the Missouri State Capitol, photographed in December 2021, on Sept. 6 for a special session on tax cuts and credits. Instead they are expected to meet next week.

Some Missouri Democratic legislators believe the delay in starting a special session on taxes means there is not consensus among Republicans.

Gov. Mike Parson wanted the special session to start Tuesday, but Republican leaders have pushed it back until at least Sept. 12. Parson wants lawmakers to pass a permanent income tax cut as well as tax credit programs for agriculture. The call for a special session came after Parson vetoed two bills that addressed the same topics.

Republican leadership said they intend to spend this week continuing discussions and begin legislative work during the week of the veto session.

Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, called the move by Republican leadership highly unusual.

“Things always get off to a slow start for special session, but at least people show up, and then we get off to a slow start. This is people not even showing up,” McCreery said.

This call for a special session from Parson is the first of the year, despite requests from some lawmakers to hold additional ones.

Parson had previously denied Democrats’ request to hold a special session on contraception and ectopic pregnancies after the state’s trigger law banning almost all abortions in Missouri caused confusion over what was still legal in the state.

Parson is also declining to expand the upcoming session to allow lawmakers to consider bills legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday. Voters get a chance to consider the issue in November.

Instead, the governor’s office is keeping the scope of the special session solely on tax cuts and credits.

McCreery said the delay of the session isn’t a good omen for the governor’s office.

In addition to talking with Republicans, Parson has also sat down with Democrats.

“I do think, frankly that he's being thoughtful in this approach, he's not going crazy with tax cuts, he's trying to just say, they're going to speed up the ones that are already in law. Well, I get that. But those triggers were there for a reason,” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said.

House and Senate Republican leadership said their goal is to “provide Missourians with the most substantive and effective tax relief possible” and to support the state’s agriculture industry so “it will grow and prosper for years to come.”

Merideth said while lowering taxes is a policy area that normally unites Republicans, there are still significant differences on what those tax cuts should look like and he’s glad the legislature isn’t acting rashly.

“I hope that means that there's not going to be agreement on any kind of irresponsible tax cut, and maybe we can wait until session to take a more thoughtful approach in how to best provide relief and support to Missourians,” Merideth said.

As to what tax relief measures would gain greater Democratic support than an income tax cut, Merideth listed one-time relief similar to previous stimulus payments, an extended sales tax holiday or exempting groceries as examples.

However, Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said some of those ideas have been brought up in prior sessions and didn’t gain momentum.

“I think that really we're just seeing some of the most powerful people in Missouri politics get their way, and everybody's fighting to make the bigger headline,” Windham said.

When the legislature passed the one-time, non-refundable tax credit that Parson ended up vetoing, many Senate Democrats were in support of the measure. Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said the new proposal could take multiple forms.

“I think anything from the possibility of sending back the exact same proposal to the governor can happen, or him getting exactly what he wants, or an even bigger tax cut that the Conservative Caucus group has pushed for a very long time,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said he is reserving judgment on the legislation until he can look at the bill itself, but he gave Republican leadership credit for not jumping right into the session without a plan.

“I would much rather them work through the process before we get down there to have as much in order before we start a session so we're not languishing around,” Rizzo said.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.