Several bills filed this year propose the same recycled tax policies from last year, except some are worse, blowing more than a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget.
These policies take dollars out of classrooms, lead to tuition increases for college students, and stall Missouri’s economy.
“State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, wants to double-down on the most disastrous bill passed by the Legislature last year — a distinction for which the competition was fierce.
Mr. Schmitt’s Senate Bill 4, pre-filed in early December, would increase the size of the $621 million tax cut, perhaps to $1 billion or more. The top personal income rate would be reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent, instead of the 5.5 percent enacted by last year’s tax-cut bill. The tax rate for corporate “pass-through” income treated as personal income — by sole proprietors, partnerships, limited liability corporations and subchapter S corporations — would be cut to 50 percent. Last year’s bill cut it to 75 percent.”
Risky tax policy will halt technology upgrades, eliminate after-school activities such as sports programs, and limit the variety of classes available to Missouri students including arts, music, and industrial arts. As a result, our children will face a competitive disadvantage of the state’s disinvestment in their education.
Early childhood funding will suffer as well. Popular programs such as First Steps and Parents as Teachers will likely end up on the chopping block in the near future, stymying our children’s intellectual growth at their most crucial ages of development. The legislation will also likely shelve recent efforts to fund preschool for all children in Missouri.
State budget shortfalls typically impact higher education first. That means more pressure to hike tuition to make up the difference, which translates into a hidden tax increase on middle-class families with college students. Funding for scholarship programs is at risk as well. These programs include the A+ Scholarship Program, which pays students’ tuition for community colleges if they earn good grades and engage in community service; Access Missouri, a needs-based aid program that provides financial assistance to low-income families; and Bright Flight, a scholarship program that offers an incentive for Missouri’s most talented students to attend college in the Show-Me State. These tax bills threaten all of these programs and many more, putting college out of reach for countless students and making it more difficult for them to reach their full potential.
The cuts to higher education funding also will force colleges and universities to abandon plans for new programs and initiatives designed to spur economic growth across the state. Higher education institutions often serve as the nucleus in local communities and, to a broader extent, serve as economic development incubators for the state. If the legislation takes effect, Missouri’s economic engine will stall, leaving the Show-Me State on the sidelines, while states committed to higher education investment push forward.