By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A group promoting tax cuts in Missouri brought the author of the tax bill — along with spokesmen for tax cuts in Kansas and Oklahoma — to a Joplin forum on Thursday night.
“It’s a tale of three states, and Missouri is losing out,” said Carl Bearden, a former state representative who now heads United for Missouri’s Future.
The group is holding gatherings in different parts of the state, he said, to illustrate the need for Missouri tax cuts and to point to successes in other states that have lowered tax rates.
Only a handful of people attended the gathering at the Hilton Garden Inn. The audience included state Sens. Ron Richard of Joplin and Ed Emery of Lamar.
Among the speakers was Missouri Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
He said he proposed the tax cuts after looking at neighboring states that had lowered taxes and tax rates. The plan would cut individual income taxes and taxes on businesses, and replace some of that lost revenue with a sales tax increase.
The measure has passed the Senate, and Kraus said he hopes the House will debate a version of the bill next week, adding, “I hope we can get it to the governor by the end of the week.”
Bearden said the tax-cut plan is encountering opposition from those who fear cuts would translate to reduced revenues for state services. But, he said other states that have cut taxes are seeing revenue growth and attracting new jobs.
Nick Jordan, Kansas secretary of revenue, discussed Kansas tax cuts and other measures the state has taken in an effort to reverse population declines.
One step was to designate counties as rural opportunity zones where residents who relocated from out of state would not have to pay income taxes for the first five years. Graduating students who moved into the counties could get up to up to $15,000 of their college loans repaid.
“It’s become a great recruiting tool for hospitals, because so many had medical degrees,” Jordan said.
The income tax rate has been lowered and income tax eliminated for owners of some corporations. Jordan said Kansas had 15,000 new business filings last year, and state revenues have increased, despite predictions that they would decline.
Oklahoma began reducing its income tax rates in 2005, according to Dave Bond, of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs.
He said the rate has been cut twice since, and each time, state revenues have grown.
“Now, we have the highest tax revenues in state history,” he said.
Bearden said his group believes tax cuts would bring the same type of growth to Missouri.
“We believe what creates growth is more income for people,” he said.
THE TAX-CUT BILL sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus has drawn criticism from groups, including those that say it will reduce revenues for state needs including education.