Category Archives: Missouri

Missouri Legislature overrides Nixon’s tax cut veto

Once more, I am embarassed to be a citizen of Missouri.  Shame on that Democrat who went along with the Republican’s tax cuts.

via StLToday:

JEFFERSON CITY • Republican legislators stood together and a lone Democrat bucked his party’s governor on Tuesday to give Missourians their first state income tax cut in nearly a century.

In the most far-reaching move since Republicans took control of the Legislature 12 years ago, the House mustered the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Exuberant Republicans, who gathered in the ornate House Lounge after the vote, called the day historic.

“Today, we lived up to the promise to Missourians, to provide hardworking Missourians some of their money back so they can grow their families, their farms and their small businesses,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

The vote was 109-46, with Rep. Keith English, D-Florissant, walking into the chamber at the last moment to provide the pivotal vote. The Senate had voted for the override Monday on a straight party-line vote of 23-8.

Drama of the moment aside, the tax code changes will take effect gradually.

In five annual steps beginning in 2017, the bill will cut the state’s top personal income tax rate to 5.5 percent from 6 percent and provide a new 25 percent deduction for business income reported on individual returns.

The cuts will be implemented only if state general revenue grows by at least $150 million a year compared with the high-water mark of the previous three years.

English said in an interview that the tax cuts were needed to help small businesses grow and that the bill had safeguards to protect education. He contended that Nixon had spread “misinformation” about the bill.

Nixon, who has called the bill unaffordable, unfair and reckless, issued a subdued statement Tuesday, saying that it failed to protect education funding and threatened the state’s AAA bond rating.

In his veto message last week, Nixon portrayed the tax cut as benefiting the wealthy.

He said 52 percent of the tax savings would go to the top 7 percent of taxpayers. Meanwhile, a family making the median income of $44,000 a year would receive a tax cut of only $32, Nixon said.

The bill is projected to cut income taxes by $620 million a year by 2022, though Nixon has warned that the tab could be much higher.

The governor contends that unclear wording appears to get rid of state income taxes for about 2.5 million Missourians. He cited a line in the bill that says that the top income tax bracket — which applies to people earning more than $9,000 — will be eliminated.

House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, led the charge to marshal votes for the override. He called Nixon’s argument “laughable” and dismissed it as “scare tactics.” Diehl said Republicans had no plans to address the unclear provision by passing another bill this session.

Nixon’s argument did win one convert: Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart. Roorda had backed the tax cut when it initially passed but voted Tuesday to sustain the governor’s veto. Roorda called the apparent elimination of the top tax bracket a “fatal flaw.”

Republicans used timing as their ally, passing the tax cut early enough in the session that they had time to consider the veto before they adjourn on May 16. That way, Nixon couldn’t campaign against the bill all summer, as he did last year when he fended off an override of a broader tax cut at the September veto session.

Legislative leaders said that delaying the tax cut’s impact until 2017 will allow time to fully fund the aid formula for K-12 public schools. They also touted the requirement that state general revenue must grow by $150 million a year before the incremental cuts are triggered.

Those changes helped the GOP win over the renegade Republicans who scuttled an override last year.

“This is a bill that is fair and responsible,” said Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville, one of the former dissidents.

Critics said the trigger was inadequate.

Missouri needs $250 million a year in general revenue growth just to maintain current levels of service, according to a statement by the Missouri Budget Project. That analysis doesn’t count annual increases in the number of people who depend on various social programs. The budget project is a liberal-leaning organization that advocates for policies that help low- and moderate-income Missourians.

Other opponents questioned whether the bill was the first step in a bigger plan to replace income taxes with consumption taxes, a move long championed by political mega-donor Rex Sinquefield of St. Louis. They noted that the Legislature is advancing a sales tax increase to pay for transportation projects.

“It’s almost a little experiment,” part of an attempt by proponents to implement a tax shift, said Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis.

Sinquefield made a fortune in the investment business in California, then returned to his native St. Louis about eight years ago. Since then, he has donated millions of dollars to politicians and issue-oriented campaigns aimed at revamping the tax code and public education.

Grow Missouri, a group partly funded by Sinquefield, praised the Legislature’s action Tuesday. Group treasurer Aaron Willard said the legislation “will go a long way toward helping stimulate Missouri’s economy.”

The tax cut’s backers said that many of Missouri’s neighboring states had cut their taxes in recent years and that Missouri must follow suit to compete.

“Half the states in the union have done this,” said Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We’re very happy.”

Brad Jones, who lobbies for the state arm of the National Federation of Independent Business, predicted that businesses would use the extra money to give employees raises or help pay rising health insurance costs.

“Any time you put money back into the hands of a small-business person, they take it and put it back in the business,” Jones said.

Even so, some said boosting the economy wasn’t the main goal. Rather, downsizing government is at the heart of the plan.

“The real fight here is how much does government need,” said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. Because the bill provides only a 25 percent tax deduction for business income, he said, it “is not an economic development tax cut. It is a limit-the-growth-of-government tax cut.”

The bill is SB509.

MO Dems announce new exec director and director of campaigns

I am excited to be working with these women!

via Missouridems.org

JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Roy Temple today announced the appointment of Crystal Brinkley as the new executive director and Kristen Self as director of campaigns. Both will take over their new positions effective April 28.

“We are pleased to announce Crystal Brinkley as the Party’s new executive director and Kristen Self as the new director of campaigns,” Chairman Temple said. “I am thrilled to be building our team’s capacity with two talented professionals who are committed to the Democratic Party’s mission of improving the lives of Missouri families.”

Brinkley brings a unique skill set to the executive director position. She previously served as volunteer coordinator on Congressman Dick Gephardt’s Presidential Campaign, traveled to various states on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign, and managed then State Representative Rachel Storch’s reelection campaign, demonstrating knowledge and experience in both statewide and local grassroots activities. Brinkley also served in Governor Nixon’s administration. Most recently, she was the finance director at the Missouri Democratic Party.

“Crystal has shown a tireless work ethic and strong leadership skills both as finance director at the Party and in previous positions,” Chairman Temple said. “She’ll continue to advance our Party’s priorities on all levels.”

Kristen Self comes to the Party with deep campaign experience. Self served as finance director for the Indiana House Democratic Caucus for eight years where she was responsible for all fundraising activities for the Caucus, the Speaker of the House, Democratic Leadership, and many Democratic members and candidates for the Indiana House of Representatives. In August of 2009, she was promoted to campaign director where she managed the day-to-day campaign operations for Democratic candidates for state representative, developed strategy and messaging for campaigns across the state and provided strategic guidance to candidates from the launch of their campaigns through Election Day.

“Kristen’s talents and experience are exactly what our Party needs to execute a successful 2014 election cycle and beyond,” Chairman Temple said. “She will bring strong leadership and guidance to our joint legislative operations, and we are thrilled she is joining the team.”

Commission Approves Tax Credits

Don’t know how much we will get here in the City — CJ

via PoliticMO.com

by  • 

COLUMBIA, Mo. – After a three-month delay, the Missouri Housing Development Commission released funding for $137 million in low-income housing tax credits that were withheld last year as a part of a deal orchestrated by Gov. Jay Nixon to pass a tax credit package in an attempt to lure a new Boeing line to St. Louis.

At the time, Nixon successfully pushed legislation that would allow for up to $150 million annually in new tax credits targeted at the aerospace industry – specifically Boeing, which was mulling St. Louis as a place to locate its new 777x commercial airliner production line. To get that through the General Assembly without a Senate filibuster, Nixon negotiated an agreement with conservative stalwarts to delay issuing the tax credits until this week, so the commission would be able to weigh whether Boeing would use the credits and whether a tax credit reform measure had made its way through the legislature.

Boeing ultimately chose against locating its new line in Missouri, and the legislature has not acted on tax credit reform, and on Friday, the MHDC moved to release the millions in tax credits for low-income housing developers.

The delay drew criticism from Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, who cited concerns about low-income residents having access to housing and developers being delayed in their projects. Kinder, a member of the commission, said after the meeting on Friday that his criticism has been about more than just the tax credits.

“The governor has subverted the independence of the commission and devastated the credibility of the commission with lenders, others in the financial community, and with developers who are looking to other states to do business in,” he said. “It is clear the governor has a regime of unrelenting hostility to this commission, and people notice that.”

State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, a Democrat and another member of the commission, said the delay was just part of the process the commission goes through in approving tax credits, considering any number of factors – including other tax credits.

“Obviously it is not an ideal situation to delay projects when they’re in the middle of the process, but that’s what happened and we’ve moved along and they were approved within 100 days,” he said. In direct response to Kinder’s criticism, Zweifel added, “I was told very clearly by the governor’s office that there was a compromise established between some Senators and his office that would allow them to move forwarded on the legislation to attempt to attract Boeing, but delay those credits for a set period while the debate happened. Is it an ideal situation? No. But it seems like a responsible result.”

The move comes just days after Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich issued a scathing audit of the program, claiming that for every dollar of the $144 million spent on the low-income housing tax credit in 2013, only 42 cents went to building actual housing. The remainder of it goes to federal taxes, firms, and investors. He was also critical of the economic impact, noting that the credit only created 63 jobs, or approximately $61,000 per unit of housing or $2.3 million per job.

Schweich recommended that the state mull making the tax credits refundable, using a direct appropriation to build low-income housing, and reduce the number of hers over which the tax credits are spread (currently dispersed in pieces over 10 years).

Think before you ink!

A fantastic reminder from the Missouri National Education Association about the deceptive ballot initiative petition that is going around – another one of Rex Sinquefield’s babies!  I’ve had to confront petitioners in front of City Hall who completely denied what it was about.  Do not sign the Teach Great Petition or for that matter, question vigorously any petition that is peddled in front of you.  Click through to the document to get the facts:

http://www.mnea.org/Uploads/Public/Documents/Capitol/IssueCampaigns2014/Decline2Sign.pdf

Mo. Senator is calling for the resignation of state education commissioner

By JORDAN SHAPIRO  Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — A Democratic lawmaker called on Missouri’s education commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign or be fired Tuesday, accusing Nicastro of being “less than truthful” about her involvement with a ballot measure that would end teacher tenure and require student performance to guide employment decisions.

Nicastro also has been criticized for the way she negotiated a contract with a consulting firm last year to improve the failing Kansas City schools. The bid went to a firm that was nearly three times as expensive as the closest competitor.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, introduced a non-binding measure Tuesday calling for Nicastro to resign or be fired by the State Education Board.

“Reports have indicated that the state education commissioner has engaged in blatantly unethical practices,” said Chappelle-Nadal. “She has misused her position, severely damaging both the reputation and effectiveness of the department.”

Nicastro responded by saying she was “committed to carrying on the work that we’re doing on behalf of kids in Missouri and that’s what I come to work every day to do, and that’s what I’ll keep doing.”

Nicastro has been under fire from Democratic lawmakers and teachers’ unions for her involvement for the ballot proposal that would end teacher tenure and require student performance to guide employment decisions. State email records show Nicastro met with an advocate of the ballot initiative in 2012, suggested specific wording and reviewed a final draft of the initiative before it was filed this March with the secretary of state’s office.

Nicastro insisted she took no position on the initiative but provided the group information just as she would with anyone proposing a change in state law.

Teachers were angered because the measure would have ended tenure protections for teachers and other certified school staff by limiting their contracts to three years. Starting in July 2015, all public school districts would need to use a staff evaluation that relies on “student performance data” to guide decisions on promoting, demoting, firing and paying personnel.

In Tuesday’s resolution, Chappelle-Nadal wrote that Nicastro’s advice to the sponsors of that initiative an example of “disregarding facts and truth in favor of political expediency.”

Nicastro has also been criticized for the way in which she negotiated a contract with a consulting firm last year to improve Kansas City schools. The state awarded the contract to Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, or CEE-Trust, even though its bid was more costly than other submissions.

In a letter to the editor published by The Kansas City Star earlier this month, Nicastro defended her actions but said “perhaps the process could and should have been handled differently.”

“Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that the children and families in every community in the state deserve high quality schools. We need all voices to focus on that most essential issue.”

Nicastro was named education commissioner in 2009 and is the first woman to hold the position since the office was created in 1947.

Early Voting Initiative Petition

via MoScout.com

Matt Dameron filed three initiative petitions with the secretary of state’s office last week. They all deal with early voting and are basically the same. They propose that the early voting would occur for the six weeks preceding the election. Each election authority would have to have a central location for the early voting. Larger authorities would be required to have satellite offices as well.

Dameron was formerly chief of staff to Chris Koster, so this could be viewed as a Democratic ploy to increase turn-out ahead of Koster’s 2016 gubernatorial race. It also echoes themes that Secretary of State Jason Kander has been talking about.

Dameron is also listed as the treasurer for a new campaign committee filed last week. It’s called the Missouri Early Voting Fund, and its stated purpose is to support the early voting constitutional amendment. The deputy treasurer is Ben Jersak, who previously served as assistant scheduler for Governor Jay Nixon.

Nixon Issues Executive Order on Same-Sex Tax Returns

via KMOX

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday he will issue an executive order directing the state Department of Revenue to accept jointly-filed tax returns from same-sex couples married in other states.

“Missouri is one of a number of states whose tax code is directly tied to that of the federal government and under Missouri law, legally married couples who file joint federal tax returns with the IRS must also file joint state returns with our state Department of Revenue,” Nixon wrote in a statement.

“As a result, accepting the jointly-filed state tax returns of all legally-married couples who file federal returns is the only appropriate course of action, given Missouri statutes and the ruling by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.”

Nixon cites a U.S. Treasury Department and IRS ruling in August that married same-sex couples be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of their residence.

The governor stressed in his news release that the executive only applies to taxes and “does not in any way authorize or sanction same-sex marriage in Missouri.”

LGBT activist group PROMO applauded the governor’s action Thursday, calling it a “consistent and pragmatic approach” to the federal rulings.

“We applaud the governor for giving clarity to same-sex couples and providing guidance on how we complete tax return information in the state of Missouri,” PROMO Executive Director A.J. Bockelman said in an emailed statement.

Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, criticized the governor’s decision Thursday, saying it “defies Missouri voters.”