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09 March 2010

Ruestman: Mid-Session Report

This week is spring break for the Missouri legislature!

We are midway through session and a lot has happened as we deal with the economy and work to further Southwest Missouri conservative values.  This is a brief summary of some of the more important bills we've been working on.

Continuing budget problems rank #1 and remain our highest priority this session.  After we reconvened, we went immediately to the work of boosting job growth.  A few weeks ago we passed House Bill 1675 which allows companies who create new jobs in the manufacturing fields to keep 50% of their withholding taxes for up to 10 years.  This is a strong incentive to expand our state's economy.

In December, the governor's tax commission decided to raise taxes on farmers by nearly 29 percent.  Obviously, in a rough economy, tax increases do not create or sustain jobs.  This absurd tax increase landed on farmers following one of the worst agriculture income years since the '40s.  This follows our promise to NOT raise taxes.  Again, I reiterate that in bad economic times we should cut taxes, not raise them.  We were able to block this proposed tax increase.

With state revenue dramatically lower than previous years and worse projections, we are making the necessary cuts to maintain a balanced budget.  This is never easy because everyone feels the cutbacks in some manner.  Beyond balancing the budget, the General Assembly has a further responsibility to wisely spending the money you've entrusted to us.  With House Bill 1377, we made an effort to do just that.  This bill requires drug testing for those applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  The Missouri House passed this 115-39.  It is an injustice to allow illegal drugs to be purchased with taxpayers' hard-earned money.

Federal issues have been on everyone's mind this session.  Just this week, the House gave preliminary approval to House Joint Resolution 48 which proposes a state constitutional amendment to protect health care rights.  It prohibits any person, employer or health care provider from being compelled to participate in a health care system.

Session has picked up pace and we should see two of my bills in committee the week of March 15th.  I will not be writing a report this week because my office is closed.  This is an annual break we take so that we may spend much-needed time with our families.  If you have issues or concerns, we will return on March 15th and would be happy to assist you at that time.

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