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06 October 2011

Tim Jones: Majority Minute: House Fulfills Governor's Call To Session, Passes EcoDevo Bill

As cool autumn evenings and sunshine drenched fall skies have quietly and serenely washed over the Midwest, our work on the 2011 Extraordinary Special Session has continued with patient diligence and with a determined spirit to accomplish a legislative agenda that includes an important economic development package that includes historic major reforms to our tax credit programs, correcting an important issue in our election laws, completing a fix to various social media programs used in our public schools, providing Missouri businesses with the economic tools they need to be competitive in the arena of life sciences and research and returning local control of the St. Louis City Police Department to the City of St. Louis. The Missouri House has successfully taken action on ALL of these items and passed out legislative vehicles addressing all of these issues in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion.

House Floor Action: Thursday, October 6, 2011

House Advances Major Jobs Package

Today, my colleagues and I in the House gave approval, in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion, to the House Committee Substitute (HCS) as amended, to Senate Bill 8. SB 8 is a major economic development plan designed to give businesses the tools they need to create and provide Missourians with good-paying jobs. The package includes a number of provisions designed to spur economic development and bring new jobs to our state. The bill would provide incentives for computer data centers and amateur and collegiate sporting events. It also would help promote Lambert Airport in St. Louis as an international trade export hub by providing incentives for businesses that handle international exports. The bill also contains significant, major tax credit program reforms, substantial reductions in tax credit programs and meaningful taxpayer protections including tying economic incentives to performance. All in all, this is one of the most major economic development bills we have ever passed that ALSO includes historic reform, cost saving measures and taxpayer protections.

During discussion on the House floor, we approved an amendment to SB 8 that will reduce the tax burden for all Missouri corporations. The provision would lower the current corporate income tax rate from 6.25 percent down to 5.5 percent. We believe the reduction in tax burden for Missouri businesses will allow for more growth and the creation of new jobs. In addition, we added another amendment to the bill that would create a state sales tax holiday from July 1-7 on products made in America. Bold tax reform is one of the four pillars necessary to create significant economic development on the State level (tax reduction and reform, labor reform, regulatory reduction and reform and economic development tools).

Tax Credit Sunsets Dominate Economic Development Discussion

As the House and Senate have worked toward an economic development compromise, one of the major stumbling blocks has been the issue of sunsets for some of the state’s most beneficial tax credit programs. The Senate has insisted that we place sunsets on programs for low-income housing and the preservation and improvement of historic buildings. The House has stood firmly in defense of these programs, because we believe they have achieved major accomplishment in helping to revitalize areas across our entire state in desperate need of improvement and rebuilding. Today the House overwhelmingly rejected placing sunsets on these proven programs that have greatly benefitted communities across our state including Springfield, Kansas City, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Kirksville, Columbia and many others.

House leaders have said all along the sunsets will not work as long as one senator is able to stall the entire legislative process (which is a now frequent occurrence) and prevent a vote to reauthorize the credits in the future. In what we believe represents a good faith compromise effort, we passed an amendment to the jobs bill that will force both the House and Senate to make up or down votes on these programs every four years. This will allow the legislature to review the programs to ensure they are working efficiently. At the same time, the language we are using will make certain that a vote does happen and the will of the majority wins out over the interests of one individual. To put this provision into effect, we also will have to pass a companion piece of legislation (HJR 1) that would then have to be approved by a vote of the people. I signed on as a co-sponsor to Representative Ryan Silvey’s HJR 1 which would impose a stringent requirement on the General Assembly to aggressively review ALL tax credit programs every four years and determine whether or not each program should continue to survive based upon its own merits, value to the taxpayer and value to the state as a whole. We are confident the people of Missouri support this idea and invite the Senate to join us.

Bill Now Moves Back to Senate for Consideration

After passing SB 8, the House adjourned for the week. We will now wait and see how the Senate reacts to what we believe is our best chance to create jobs for the many Missourians who are currently out of work. The Senate is scheduled to convene for session Tuesday, October 11. I am hopeful my colleagues on the other side of the building will do what is right for Missouri by taking up and passing the bill sent to them by the House.

The House has now lived up to the spirit and letter of the Governor’s initial call that brought us into Special Session. We have considered all of the legislation that has thus far been filed and passed out all bills in an overwhelming bi partisan fashion. In the face of 9% employment and recognizing the fact that the entire Nation remains mired in economically challenging times, the Missouri House has passed legislation that will not only help businesses create jobs and new opportunities for Missourians all across our state but, in keeping with the necessary fiscal prudence of the day, will provide needed reforms to nearly all of our tax credit programs which will protect taxpayer dollars and insure budget certainty. At this point in time, we now await action from the Senate which will determine if the Special Session will move forward towards ultimate success.

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