Things Left Undone

With school back in session and those yellow buses back on our rural roads, I’ve been reflecting on some of the successes of this past legislative session: fully funding our school transportation system, creating a grant program that provides pay raises for teachers at schools that chose to participate, cutting bureaucratic red tape and enacting programs to spur economic growth and improve Missouri’s workforce. Despite our successes, there are a few things still left to get done.

During the regular legislative session, the General Assembly passed two bills that ended up being vetoed by the governor. House Bill 1720 was a wide-ranging package of incentives to support farmers and grow the agricultural sector of Missouri’s economy. The governor, a farmer himself, said the two-year sunsets in the bill didn’t provide enough time for producers to take advantage of the programs. He asked us to renew these important programs for six years, instead of two. The other bill vetoed by the governor was House Bill 2090. This measure included a one-time tax credit provision that would put money back in the hands of Missourians during this time of record inflation and reckless federal spending. The governor said he supported giving money back to taxpayers, but he wanted a larger, permanent cut that would benefit Missourians for years to come. The governor called the General Assembly back to the Capitol for an extra legislative session with a two-fold mission: pass an improved version of the ag bill and enact even deeper cuts in Missouri’s income tax.

Missouri is currently sitting on a record revenue surplus due to pro-business measures resulting in strong economic growth. In my opinion, there is no better way to “spend” this money than by giving it back to the Missouri people. This week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 3 and 5 to do just that. This bill, which combines proposals from the likely future Senate Appropriations Committee chairman and the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would cut Missouri’s top individual state income tax rate from its current level of 5.3% down to 4.95%, beginning in 2023. The bill puts in place additional rate reductions tied to future growth in state revenue. As the state takes in more money, the tax rate would fall further. Fully implemented, the tax rate could drop to 4.5% by the year 2027. This modified version of the governor’s proposal ensures surplus tax revenues are returned to the people, while still providing necessary resources for public schools, nursing homes and other essential programs.

Senate Bill 8, also passed this week, closely mirrors the vetoed HB 1720 from the regular session. The legislation renews a tax credit program administered by the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) and also extends a variety of other existing agriculture incentives, including tax credits for meat processors and the timber products industry. In addition, the bill enacts new programs to support ethanol and biodiesel production and distribution. These programs are essential to agriculture as they provide financial assistance to everyday farmers at affordable rates. Also included in the bill are my Senate Bill 785 and Senate Bill 1152. These two bills would help provide support to operators of logging trucks in the 33rd Senatorial District and elsewhere and bring clarity about tax exemptions to sellers of farm machinery and equipment.

The tax cut and agriculture incentives passed by the Senate are now in the hands of the House of Representatives. It’s my hope we can get both of these important bills passed to provide relief to everyday Missourians and our farmers. If the House approves the Senate bills as written, we’ll wrap the extra session up quickly. If they make changes, or decide to write an alternative tax bill, we’ll probably be here in Jefferson City a bit longer. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.

It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011. You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.

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