The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 2, 2013

Property tax proposal heads to Senate

Tax credit reform bill heads to House

By Eli Yokley
Globe Staff Writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that would allow the governing bodies of University of Missouri Extension districts to ask the voters for tax increases to offer greater funding for their programs.

Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, said the bill would allow county extension councils to pair up to raise funds and share resources across county lines. The bill would allow extension districts to seek a 0.3 percent increase in property taxes to fund the program. The legislation was sent to the Senate, where lawmakers are considering their own legislation. A similar bill passed the House last year but died in the Senate.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that lowered the caps on low-income housing and historic preservation tax credits. The bill lowers historic preservation credits from $140 million to $40 million and lowers low-income housing credits from $190 million to $55 million a year. The bill also includes a new, nearly $60 million tax credit fund that could be used to encourage air cargo to move through Missouri.

House Speaker Tim Jones said Thursday he is in favor of higher caps for the programs, a potential stumbling block for the long-sought tax credit reform. Jones met last week with Gov. Jay Nixon to discuss tax credit reform and other issues. While Nixon’s tax credit reform panel has suggested limiting the credits somewhere around $90 million, he issued a rare statement of approval of the bill passed by the Senate.

“This bill contains long-overdue reforms to our state’s largest tax credit expenditures, which would yield significant savings for taxpayers in years to come,” Nixon said. “The overwhelming bipartisan support shown [Thursday] for reining in these tax credits represents an important step toward getting fiscally responsible tax credit reform to my desk this year.”

GOP regrouping

While lawmakers are in the Capitol, Republican Party officials are attempting to revamp the state party after a dismal showing for their statewide candidates last year. On Thursday, the Missouri Republican Party announced that Shane Schoeller — the former speaker pro tem of the Missouri House of Representatives who lost his race for secretary of state last year — would serve as the party’s executive director.

The announcement was one of the biggest decisions the party’s new chairman, Ed Martin, will likely have to make. Schoeller was one of nearly 50 people who applied for the job. He and about five others sat down with Martin at the party’s Lincoln Days gathering last month in St. Louis.

“Shane is a passionate and articulate messenger for the Republican Party,” Martin said in a statement. “He knows politics and understands the state, and he will bring to the party an invaluable knowledge of the General Assembly. With Shane’s leadership, I am confident that we will achieve success in 2014 and beyond.”

Martin — the party’s candidate for attorney general last year — became close with Schoeller during their campaigns. Some Republicans have grumbled privately about the notion that two candidates who had just recently lost are now leading the party, but others note it has been done before. John Hancock, a St. Louis Republican, lost his bid for secretary of state in 1996 but was selected the next year for executive director, a position he held for six years.

Joplin donor back in game

If the party is going to rebuild, it will need to raise money, and a Joplin donor who had largely abandoned supporting the party after high-profile mistakes from candidates last year may be coming back around. While he supported various candidates, TAMKO Building Products executive David Humphreys gave no financial support to the party last year. But according to campaign finance information given to The Joplin Globe, Humphreys contributed $10,000 to the party that came at the same time as a major fundraiser last month.