"Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Mo. House of Representatives. I look forward to continuing to serve you in the new 97th District " John McCaherty
Thank you for the vote of confidence in the election. I am honored to serve the people of our district, and will continue to do the best job I can for the all the great people of the district.
Tax Cut Legislation Sent to Governor’s Desk
(SBs 509 & 496)
This week the Missouri House gave final approval to legislation that would reduce the state income tax for the first time in nearly a century. When fully phased in the bill would reduce the tax burden for Missouri families and businesses by more than $600 million each year.
The bill is similar to a tax cut plan approved by the legislature last year that was vetoed by the governor, who felt a reduction in taxes would jeopardize funding for education. Supporters say this year’s version addresses the governor’s concerns by calling for a smaller cut with more safeguards. For instance, last year’s bill would have allowed a 50 percent income tax deduction for business income while this year’s version implements only a 25 percent deduction. In addition, the version approved by the House this year would require revenues to increase by at least $150 million for each phase of the cut to be implemented. Last year’s bill required revenues to increase by only $100 million or more.
The plan would cut the top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent over a period of years depending on increases to general revenue. It also would phase in the 25 percent tax exemption for Missouri business income in 5 percent increments. For low income Missourians who make $20,000 or less, the bill would increase the exemption for personal income taxes from $2,100 to $2,600. In addition, the bill would require that the brackets for individual income tax be adjusted annually for the percent increase in inflation. If the bill becomes law, the tax cuts would begin being implemented in 2017.
Supporters say the bill now being considered by the governor provides a responsible, well-reasoned approach to reducing the tax burden for more than 2 million Missouri families and individuals. They say that concerns about the tax cut’s impact on education funding are addressed by requiring revenues to increase each year and by the delay until 2017 to put the cuts into effect. They also say a tax cut will drive revenues up as more businesses come to Missouri and existing businesses use the dollars they are allowed to keep to grow and expand.
Opponents say the bill will reduce revenues and jeopardize funding to areas of need such as education and transportation infrastructure. They say providing adequate funding to these vital areas is the key to attracting new businesses and growing the economy rather than a lower a tax burden. They also say the legislature needs to fully fund the school foundation formula that provides funding to K-12 public schools before cutting taxes.
While the legislature has given the tax cut plan final approval it seems likely that the debate on this issue will continue the next few weeks as the governor decides whether to sign or veto the bill. Early indications are that he will veto the legislation, which will then give the General Assembly the opportunity to override the veto. As you may recall, the legislature failed in its efforts to override the governor’s veto of the tax cut that was approved last year. Supporters of the tax cut feel they are in a much better position to successfully override a potential veto this year. The coming weeks will be interesting to watch as we wait to see what happens.
House Moves to Expand Bright Flight to Prevent “Brain Drain”
This week the members of the House came together to approve legislation designed to provide more financial assistance to Missouri students in order to keep them in Missouri for college and then for work. You may recall from a previous report that I discussed this idea and the funding included for it in the state operating budget. The bill passed would enable that funding to be used for a forgivable loan program created in our Bright Flight Scholarship that would open the doors to a college education for more students who are willing to work in the state after graduation.
Some refer to the loss of Missouri students to jobs in other states as “brain drain.” The legislation we approved attempts to stop the “brain drain” by increasing the financial assistance we offer to students who go to college in Missouri and work in our state after graduation. Specifically, it would allow students to receive loans not to exceed the cost of attendance at a Missouri college or university. Each year of loan debt would then be forgiven for each year worked in Missouri after graduation.
This added component to our Bright Flight program is an important step toward helping more of our best and brightest students afford the cost of a college education. The truth is that our Bright Flight scholarships haven’t kept up with inflation over the years and no longer represent an amount significant enough to entice students to choose to stay in Missouri over other out-of-state options. By augmenting this program with the new forgivable loan program we can help stop the “brain drain” that has happened in recent years and help create the educated, skilled workforce our state desperately needs to ensure future economic prosperity.
House Approves Legislation to Keep E-Cigarettes Out of the Hands of Minors
As the use of electronic cigarettes, or E-cigarettes, has become more common around the country, many states have taken action to effectively regulate this new alternative to traditional tobacco products. The Missouri House was the latest state legislature to tackle this issue as members approved legislation this week designed to keep these electronic devices out of the hands of young people.
The bill approved by the House would make it illegal for e-cigarettes to be sold to anyone under the age of 18. In effect the bill puts these electronic devices on the same level as other tobacco products in regard to who may purchase the products. However, the bill makes it clear the devices would not otherwise be regulated or taxed as traditional tobacco products.
We believe this is a step in the right direction in dealing with this popular alternative to traditional cigarettes. The legislation makes sure that we keep these devices, which do contain addictive nicotine, out of the hands of young Missourians. At the same time, it allows us to take a wait and see approach as we look for the federal FDA to announce its own set of regulations for the devices.
House Passes Legislation to Help Students with Dyslexia
The Missouri House passed legislation this week that would help children with dyslexia access the educational services they need in order to succeed academically. We know there are students with dyslexia in every school district in our state. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 80 percent of young people with reading difficulties are dyslexic. While some may assume these young people are provided with the additional instruction they need to succeed in the classroom, this is often not the case.
The bill we approved this year would address the issue by expanding Bryce’s Law to help accommodate the specific learning needs of children with dyslexia. Approved by the legislature last year, Bryce’s Law was established to help children with autism spectrum disorders by creating scholarships funded through private donations that can then be used to pay for the special services these children need. The legislation we approved this year would simply modify the law to also apply to children with dyslexia. It is a move we believe will help the many dyslexic young people in Missouri receive the help they need to succeed in school and beyond.
House Moves to Ensure Equal Treatment of Various Dog Breeds
We often discuss the problems associated with crafting public policy in a “knee-jerk” fashion. Tragedy strikes and rather than fully study the causes of a problem or implications of a proposal, legislators (city, state, and federal alike) sometimes are hasty to have a “solution” to help ease the minds of concerned citizens. One such instance, I believe, has been the effort to ban particular breeds of dogs. In some milder cases, cities or towns have placed bans on their citizens owning certain breeds. In much more drastic cases, like in Ohio, there have been proposals to euthanize all dogs of the pit bull variety (see Ohio’s House Bill 548 introduced during their 127th General Assembly). Euthanasia and ban policy of this nature is, unfortunately, just downright shortsighted and foolish.
For example, if a policy is set in place to ban the private ownership of a pit bull, how does one know if the dog is actually of that variety? Most of the ordinances of this fashion have simply placed that judgment in the hands of a law enforcement officer. That individual may very well not be an expert on what a certain breed is or is not. Moreover, many dogs are not “pure” animals, meaning they might be half pit bull and half spaniel. Are physical characteristics alone the best measure to identify if a dog can be owned privately or, in the case of Ohio, killed? I do not think so. And, I’m not alone.
In 2013, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published an article specifically examining the causes of 256 fatal dog attacks spanning 2000 to 2009. The scientific research presented showed that many contributing factors correlate with these tragic instances. For example, it was shown that absence of an able-bodied adult, failure to neuter, and dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions were all associated with incidents that resulted in a fatality. The conclusion of the study indicated that “most DBRFS [dog bite-related fatality] were characterized by coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these.”
Here in Missouri, we are supporting a more common-sensed approach. We are also taking the appropriate steps to ensure that no local policies are implemented which unfairly target a particular breed. Representative Ron Hicks filed House Bill 1116 which ensures that all breeds of dogs are treated uniformly under local ordinance. The bill was before the House this week and I look forward to it being weighed on its merits and moving to the Senate for further consideration.
This Capitol Report is a weekly column by Representative John C. McCaherty, from the 97th District, covering events in the Missouri Legislature and district wide issues.
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