This week I participated in a transparency meeting of the Budget Committee. This is an idea of Representatives Tom Flanagan and Sue Allen and brings together members of the Budget Committee and various Appropriations Committees in an effort to hold bureaucratic agencies accountable.
One of the problems with the short term limits we have at the state level is that about the time we become extremely knowledgeable in a particular area, the clock has expired and we must leave. Representatives Flanagan and Allen initiated these oversight hearings to provide in-depth knowledge for legislatures and also to provide continuity from one legislative session to another.
This should help new legislators in the future to more quickly grasp the budgetary process and to then ask pertinent questions of accountability to those spending your tax dollars. The current schedule is to have one meeting a month per appropriations item.
This week we delved into new expenditures. One of the problems we have with the governor's unilateral implementation of Common Core is that it provides that all juniors will be given the ACT college entry examination. As you might guess, this is a significant expenditure amounting to millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the legislature did not know about this additional cost until this year. I will keep you informed on future revelations.
The Governor and His Vetoes
In December, the governor forecast rising revenues of 5.9 percent for FY 2015. Now, the sky is falling everyday!
On Wednesday, June 11, the governor vetoed ten bills that affect taxing and tax collection. These bills are: SB 584, SB 612, SB 662, SB 693, SB 727, SB 829, SB 860, HB 1296, HB 1455, and HB 1865. The governor is projecting a loss of $776 million dollars to state and local revenues. However, in his veto letter to the General Assembly the governor does not specify how these shortfalls will occur or how he came to this estimate. He did state that he will have budget withholdings to insure that these shortfalls are accounted for in the upcoming fiscal year.
This is a familiar pattern from the governor.
The MissouriNet reports that the governor referred to the vetoed tax provisions as, "secret, sweetheart deals so that the well-connected can pay less, while asking all Missourians to pay more," and said they reflect, "priorities that are dangerously out of whack." (http://www.missourinet.com/2014/06/11/nixon-vetoes-ten-bills-he-says-would-have-hurt-state-local-budgets/). Here are some of "sweetheart" provisions of tax reform bills the governor vetoed:
-- Relief from sales tax on vehicles ten years old or older (not too many of these are purchased by upper-income earners)
-- Relief from sales tax on used manufactured homes (again, not a lot going to the upper-income bracket)
-- Placing the burden of proof during a tax audit on the Department
of Revenue (so you will continue to be guilty until proven innocent)
-- Relief from double taxation of electricity used to prepare food for commercial sale (food prices go up)
-- DOR must notify businesses of changes in collecting sales tax, and if not notified, the company is not liable until notification is given (businesses will continue to owe money they don't know they owe)
-- Expansion of back-to-school sales tax holiday (parents with school children will continue to pay more)
-- Farmers Market exemptions (so farmers must collect sales tax for their sweet corn)
-- Food Stamp rehabilitation program (felons who choose a rehabilitation program will not receive support while making their lives and society better)
-- Food Stamp eligibility for fresh produce (so now, low-income families cannot eat better food)
And he calls our priorities out of whack. In my opinion, the governor needs to take a serious look at legislative actions rather than taking sweeping actions to thwart reform efforts that help lower and middle class families as well as small businesses. More thoughtfulness is needed in these trying economic times.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.