Special Thoughts on Special Session

Everyone that knows me knows that I have a special place in my heart for Missouri politics. For us political junkies, there has been lots of excitement. At the end of June, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called a special session to do two things. 1) Pass tax incentives to keep the Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri and 2) reform Missouri’s state pension plan for future state employees. A 20+ hour filibuster against the $150 million tax credit proposal ended this morning in the Missouri Senate.

I’m not a fan of corporate tax incentives. Ford has (not publicly, but to politicians) threatened to leave Missouri if they do not receive tax incentives to keep the plan open. How much will this cost Missourians? $150,000,000 over 10 years, or $15,000,000 per year. In other words, Missouri taxpayers will be subsidizing the salaries of these workers, if they stay) to the tune of $4,054 per employee, per year. Multiply that times the 10 year period and Missouri taxpayers are nearly paying the salaries of these 3,700 employees, paying the equivalent of $40,540 per employee.

Ford’s current production line at the Claycomo plant in ends in 2011. Governor Nixon and the General Assembly believe this will keep Ford’s presence in Missouri. I don’t buy it. A few years ago, (2006) Chrysler was offered tax incentives. Did they stay? No. Not only is this a waste of taxpayer money, but why won’t Ford say publicly that they are willing to stay in Missouri?

State Senators Chuck Purgason, Matt Bartle, and Jack Goodman, all Republicans were filibustering the plan backed by Republican leaders in the Missouri Senate and House. They each had their own reasons for disagreeing with the proposal. Purgason argued that small businesses needed tax credits more than a multi-billion dollar publically traded corporation. I agree with him on that notion.

To pay for this tax credit, the companion bill would reform Missouri’s state employees’ retirement plan. It would require all new state employees to dedicate 4% of their pay to their retirement fund, and it would require them to be older before they are allowed to pull their retirement money. It’s supposed to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. This change is probably needed, but it won’t help with the low morale among incoming state workers.

While it was 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning in reality, the Senate Journal still read that it was Tuesday evening because of the filibuster. The 20-hour filibuster ended after Chuck Purgason dropped or threw his mic and reportedly left the Senate chamber. Ultimately, the tax credit bill passed the Senate by a vote of 20-7.

Missouri should take a strong look at all of their tax credits, verifying that each one of them is ultimately bringing in more money than its spending. Our state legislators must keep in mind that all tax credits cost the state money. Next fiscal year, Missouri will face a nearly $1 billion dollar deficit. Missouri spends upwards of $500-$700 million in tax credits each year. In just a few short months, when the legislature reconvenes, legislature should ask themselves: what is more important, tax credits for a company that profited $1.2 billion between January-April alone or cutting social services, K-12 education, and higher education.

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