By Susan Redden
Speaker Tim Jones touted the “business friendly” positions of the Missouri House of Representatives on Monday in a gathering of Joplin area business people.
He said lowering personal and corporate income taxes, reinstating medical malpractice caps and revising the prevailing wage requirements are priorities in the legislative session that passed its half-way mark last week.
Reducing income tax in favor of a sales tax would be fairer and make the state more attractive to new employers, Jones told the crowd of about 20 people accommodated by Employer Advantage at the Gryphon Building. Under the current system, Jones said, everyone in Missouri who makes over $9,000 is in the same tax bracket.
“People who can afford to should pay,” he said. “But shifting to more of a consumption-tax would include people who aren’t paying income taxes.”
The proposal he favors, the speaker said, would gradually reduce income taxes and increase state sales tax by 1 percent, with some of the revenue generated specifically earmarked for transportation needs.
To a question about how to avoid a tax that would be regressive on lower-income residents, Jones said food would not be taxed.
Missouri’s conservative policies allowed it to fare better in the recession than some other states, Jones said, noting the state has $250 million more in revenue than last year, adding “and that’s without a tax increase.”
While praising historic preservation tax credits that made possible renovation projects like the Gryphon Building, the speaker said lawmakers are looking to rein in a system that now grants tax credits for about 61 programs.
“These kinds of projects have preserved buildings and revitalized towns, but we need to get the number of programs down to between 20 and 30,” he said.
He said other legislation is being proposed to reinstate caps on medical malpractice awards that were imposed earlier and then thrown out by the courts. He said the absence of limits makes it difficult in areas like Joplin and Kansas City, where physicians can just move to neighboring states where limits are in pace.
Lawmakers also are working to put before voters a bond proposal that would generate revenue for state infrastructure needs without raising taxes. They also are advancing measures that, if passed into law, would remove prevailing wage requirements on school construction projects and on government projects in counties that are not in metropolitan areas of the state such as Kansas City and St. Louis. He praised state Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, who is chairman of the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety committee working on prevailing wage and related proposals. He also cited work by Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, vice chairman of the House budget committee; Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, chairman of the House Agriculture Policy Committee; and Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, chairman of the House Veterans Committee.
To other questions, Jones said he believes the marketplace should set pay rates rather than minimum wage requirements, and said both the Senate and House continue to oppose Gov. Jay Nixon’s recommendation to expand state Medicaid rolls under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Nixon’s proposal would add 300,000 to the state Medicaid plan with the federal government paying all the costs for the first three years. Jones said he and other GOP lawmakers do not believe the federal government can afford to keep its share of the bargain.
157th District seat
Jones said one of the reasons for his trip to Southwest Missouri was for events in support of Mike Moon, Republican candidate for a vacant 157th District seat in the House. Moon will face Democrat Charles Dake in a special election on April 2. Republicans already have veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate.