While debating the budget, House Democrats called on republicans to consider reforming corporate tax giveaways, the answer from House Republicans was a loud and resounding "NO!"
The heated debate finally boiled over when Rep. Roorda, the Minority Whip, accused House Republicans of using the budget process to punish Governor Nixon and his administration by drastically reducing the salaries of cabinet-level officials appointed by the Governor. "All we saw this week was phony baloney amendments to take this director's salary away or that director's salary away. Grandstanding that we know is not going to be there at the end," said Roorda
In an angry outburst, Representative Tim Jones (R-Eureka) interrupted Roorda's speech, loudly shouting accusations that the Minority Whip had intentionally skipped out on crucial votes during the previous day's session. Roorda, who had been absent to attend the funeral of a long-time friend and brother of a Nixon-administration official, riled at Jones's accusations that he had "walked" on key votes.
"If you've got something to say, then you stand up and say it" said Roorda to Jones before House Speaker Ron Richard (R-Joplin) cut off Roorda's microphone. Roorda turned and began walking toward Jones, who lunged forward but was quickly restrained by several House Republicans and staff members. Jones's tantrum was quickly ended as he was physically escorted out of the chamber by Republicans colleagues, all the while screaming "You're a liar, you're a liar, you're a liar!" at Roorda.
The fracas shut down house debate for several minutes as Speaker Richard and Minority Leader Paul LeVota (D-Independence), had a sidebar at the dais. Following the discussion, Richard admonished the members and reminded them that outburst would not be tolerated, and budget debate resumed shortly thereafter.
Audio of debate (12 minutes) Here's what things sounded like to the folks at home. The first voice you hear is Rep. Jeff Roorda (D- Barnhart). Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) can be heard yelling in the background at around the 3:15 mark.
Video of debate
HOUSE ELIMINATES EDUCATION INCREASE FROM BUDGETThe Missouri House of Representatives on March 23 voted 80-68 to strip a $105 million funding increase for public schools from the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The action came on a near-party-line vote with most Republicans in favor of eliminating the funding and most Democrats opposed.
When he proposed his FY 2011 budget in January, Gov. Jay Nixon requested an $18 million increase in the formula for distributing state aid to local schools. Although a boost from current funding, the governor's recommendation was $87 million short of what is deemed full funding of the formula for next year. In a surprise move, House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, included the full $105 million when he brought the education appropriations bill before the committee despite not offsetting the increase with reductions elsewhere. The removal of the additional $105 million by the House would keep formula spending at current levels.
The House voted to send to the Senate the 13 appropriations bills that make up the $23.6 billion FY 2011 state budget on March 24. Because the FY 2011 revenue estimate recently was revised downward, lawmakers cut $224 million from the governor's proposal to help put budget in balance. Although the House budget includes $300 million in federal funds the state expects to receive, Nixon wants to hold that money in reserve for FY 2012, which budget officials anticipate will be even more difficult.
To read the full story click click here.
Mega Tax BillThe "Mega Tax" bill (HJR-56) was heard in the Committee on Ways and Means on March 18th. However, an executive session has not been held. This legislation would shift taxes eliminating corporate and income taxes while greatly expanding state sales tax to make up the difference. Expanding sales tax, however, creates an undue burden on Missouri's lower and middle income families. Instead of making Missouri tax structure less fair, we should be working to create a tax system that fairly distributes the tax burden across the state. Moving forward I will continue to oppose this legislation and work to represent a fair solution to Missouri's budget problems.
Cord Blood CollectionThe last two years I have sponsored legislation to establish cord blood collection sites across Missouri for the transportation of cord blood to the Saint Louis Cord Blood Bank. This year the bill is House Bill 1370. Saint Louis Cord Blood Bank provides new mothers with an opportunity to save lives by donating the blood left over from the umbilical cord and placenta after her baby is born. Cord blood is a rich source of adult stems cells that are a valuable resource in treating a wide array of conditions. These cells are not at all controversial and if they are not donated they are simply thrown away as medical waste. Today thousands of people are alive because of the generous donation of cord blood by new mothers. The Saint Louis Cord Blood Bank collects cord blood donations at SSM St. Clare Health Center, St. Anthony's Medical Center and Jefferson Memorial Hospital.
Jay Nixon proposes cutting state's tax credit program by half[Link to Original Article]
By Virginia Young
POST-DISPATCH JEFFERSON CITY BUREAU
Gov. Jay Nixon has unveiled a sweeping plan that would slash by half the state's $650 million in tax credits, repeal laws that make the credits flow automatically and give state officials broad authority to decide who gets them.
The administration said on Tuesday that the changes were needed so the state could control costs, adapt to changing economic times and target projects with the most payback for the public.
St. Louis boosters immediately condemned the proposal, which they said would destroy valuable economic development tools. The largest tax credit program pumps $186 million a year into preservation of historic buildings. It would be cut to less than $78 million under Nixon's plan.
Jeff Mansell, director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, called Nixon's proposal "a devastating blow" to a program that has revived many older parts of St. Louis. He said the historic credit had been "a major driving economic tool in creating jobs."
But with state revenue plummeting, momentum seems to be building in the Legislature to rein in tax credits. Nixon's plan drew praise from a bipartisan working group of senators.
"It's absolutely moving us in the right direction," said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. "For the first time we've shifted this from, 'What is the greatest benefit to the developer?' to 'What is the greatest benefit to the taxpayer?'"
When the state issues a tax credit, the treasury agrees to forego that amount of money. The recipient gets a voucher, which can be used to reduce income taxes or various business taxes. In most cases, the credits also can be sold for cash to a bank or investor.
The state has 61 tax credit programs benefitting scores of projects. For example, they fund the cleanup of environmentally contaminated sites, entice high-tech businesses to locate in low-income areas, help livestock breeders expand their herds and pay the bills at domestic violence shelters.
Nixon's proposal, coming with only about eight weeks left in the legislative session, took tax credit supporters by surprise. It was introduced by his economic development director, David Kerr, who explained it to four senators surrounded by lobbyists and staffers, all scrunched into a senator's Capitol office. The senators formed one of eight working groups reviewing budget-cutting ideas submitted by the public.
Kerr said that rather than just putting caps on tax credit programs, the administration wanted to "reform the whole thing from scratch." Under the plan, the state would set a "global cap" of $314 million in tax credits that could be authorized next year. The number is pegged to 70 percent of the credits claimed last year.
Tax credits would be reorganized into six broad categories, such as business development and community assistance. The only programs exempt from the cap would be the circuit breaker and homestead programs, which help elderly and disabled homeowners pay property taxes.
Each category would get a certain percentage of the tax credits allowed under the cap. For example, the biggest share - 30 percent - would go to business development, which would include the state's Quality Jobs program. The next largest share - 20 percent - would be reserved for a new category of "at-large" projects, which could cover unforeseen situations. Economic development officials would oversee the credits. There would be no more "entitlements" - credits guaranteed by law.
While legislators sounded open-minded, some questioned giving so much power over tax breaks to the executive branch.
"That's a shakedown waiting to happen," said House Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville. "There's no way that idea's going to make it."
Kerr said that the department would provide annual reports showing the return on the state's investment and that legislators could "take action" if they were unhappy with the results.
Legislators noted that although the proposal would produce long-term savings, it wouldn't do much to help close next year's $500 million budget gap. That's because the state has a huge tax credit liability - more than $2 billion in credits already issued but not yet redeemed.
Time is short to pass a major change, which would need approval in both the House and Senate before the session adjourns May 14. But the state faces unprecedented budget problems that threaten popular programs such as home-delivered meals and K-12 education.
"How can you make those kinds of decisions and not touch the low-income housing tax credit?" asked Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters.
Critics have argued for years that groups receiving tax credits end up with privileged status because they don't need to fight each year for scarce state appropriations. As the House began dealing Tuesday evening with what one legislator called "shocking" cuts to balance next year's budget, some said tax credit recipients must share the pain.
Most tax credit programs were established in the early 1990s, when the state was flush. Now, with revenue plummeting, "we do not have the luxury of that extra money," said Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield.