As we ring in another New Year, so begins another session here in Jefferson City. While there is no question I enjoyed having the time to spend with my family and meet with constituents one-on-one, I am looking forward to coming together with my colleagues in the General Assembly as we move to craft and pass several pieces of legislation that will make a difference in the lives of all Missourians.
The core of the agenda for the House of Representatives in 2012 has to focus on our economy. Jobs and taxation are still the key concerns on the minds of almost everyone I speak with. Part of improving the employment situation is improving the state’s economic climate and removing regulations that might be well-intentioned but are burdensome and counterproductive. Today, I filed H.B. 1180, which is a tort reform bill that changes the determination of a defendant’s liability. Under current Missouri law, if a defendant is found to be 51% at fault for, say, an accident, that defendant is forced to pay 100% of the damages to the plaintiff—regardless of whether other parties or even the plaintiff themselves are found to be responsible for the other 49% of the damage. Setting aside the costs for a private citizen as a defendant, allocating damages in such an unproportional manner can cost several thousands of dollars in insurance fees and potentially hundreds of thousands in revenue. It is a primary reason why businesses lose incentive to grow their business or invest in Missouri, and it goes against the grain of American values to force a person or a business to pay for damages that they are not responsible for.
Another issue facing the employment climate is taxation. Under the 1980 Hancock Amendment to the Missouri Constitution, total state revenues and expenses in Missouri are limited to a percentage of the personal income of Missouri citizens, and excess funds are to be returned to the citizens of the state. As a result, it became quite common for the state government to begin sending $1 and $2 checks to citizens—a mandatory rebate under the Amendment. Due to these excess revenues, legislators began creating corporate tax credits—some of them well-meaning and used as a means to utilize the excess revenues by attempting to incentivize businesses to expand, but some of them not so well-meaning and used as an accounting trick to disguise the excess revenue in the state budget. Recently, though, it has come to my attention that Missouri actually pays out far more in corporate tax credits than it receives in corporate tax revenue. Not only does this system create needless hoops for employers and businesses to jump through, it is a waste of taxpayer money and serves very few people well. To address this, I am in the process of drafting an important piece of legislation that would do three things. First, it would eliminate all tax credits in existence. Second, it would eliminate the corporate tax. Finally, it would create a one-half percent tax cut in the state’s personal income tax code. By doing this, three goals would be accomplished. First, businesses and corporations would no longer have to navigate a complicated and burdensome tax code that literally has taken dedicated researchers weeks to navigate to find every advantage to be had. Businesses could be created or could relocate to Missouri, confident in the knowledge that they are operating in the best economic climate possible. Second, the state would no longer play favorites by handing out what are, in essence, kickbacks and bribes to those who are smart and wealthy enough to game the system. Finally, Missourians across the state would see their own take-home pay increase as their personal tax burden decreased. And the best part about this bill is that, while the final numbers have yet to be crunched by House analysts, my own calculations indicate that this bill would be revenue-neutral—it would not raise state revenue, but it would not cost a single soul one extra penny.
Obviously, Missouri’s economy won’t be fixed from one or two piece of legislation. My colleagues and I also plan to address the economic climate by drafting legislation that would reform our laws to address basic issues of fairness in employee-employer relations, employment law, and entrepreneurship. Additionally, we plan to increase transparency for taxpayers by requiring counties to disclose to citizens the amount of debt they owe, and to save taxpayers money by implementing cost saving measures in our criminal justice system. While work remains to be done on the myriad of issues facing our state, we are working tirelessly here in the Capitol to find innovative and effective solutions to solve the problems facing Missouri and spread a message that conveys what you already know—that Missouri is the best place in the nation to live, to work, and to raise a family.
As we enter this year, I remain honored and humbled that you have allowed me to serve as the voice of the 16th district, and I place that role and responsibility above all others. In order to do the best job possible, I need and welcome your advice and opinions. Please feel free to contact me by phone or email. Together, we can accomplish all that needs to be done.
Working for you,