On Jan. 28, the governor gave his fifth State of the State address, followed by a response from House Speaker Tim Jones. While there are certainly some areas of disagreement between the parties, there is also some room for agreement and compromise. I am optimistic, as we continue with the 2013 session, that we can do good things for the citizens of Missouri.
The governor used his address to lay out his priorities for the year, including higher spending for education, Medicaid expansion, campaign contribution limits, bonding and tax credit reform. I share some of the governor’s concerns on some of these issues, and differ strongly with him on others. My hope is that this year he and his staff will engage with the Legislature. In past years, we have heard very little from his office, often hearing nothing until after a bill was already passed by the General Assembly. I look forward to him working closely with legislators on his key issues this time around.
This year, we are looking at the tax credit reform a bit differently. This week, the Senate gave first-round approval to its first two bills, both dealing with tax credit legislation. Both had been held up last year as we sought to pass a comprehensive tax credit reform bill. This year, as a show of good faith, both bills were allowed to pass on their own merits with the expectation that true reform will be passed later in the year. The first bill reauthorized or extended certain benevolent or contributory tax credits like the Pregnancy Resource Center Tax Credit, the Champion for Children Tax Credit, the Rebuilding Communities tax credit program and a tax credit for donations to food pantries. These credits are most often used for charitable organizations, and sometimes cost the state nothing. I am glad we were able to get those credits back in the system. The second credit was put in place to attract amateur sporting events. This tax credit is fairly conservative, as it has a small cap and pays for itself as it goes.
The Medicaid issue may be the toughest of the session. The governor supports expanding Medicaid as required by the Affordable Care Act. I don’t think the numbers add up. The main argument is that Missouri will lose $8 billion in federal funds, but if we were honest, we’d admit those funds aren’t even money the federal government even has to spend. The next argument the governor makes is that this will save money, not cost Missourians. How anyone can say that adding 300,000 people to a state program will save money is beyond me. So far, studies have shown this will cost Missourians $300-500 million per year after the first two years. Which programs should be cut to pay for that loss? I recommend we go very slowly, if we move at all.
State Senator Will Kraus-R serves District Eight and is a resident of Lee’s Summit.