Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you why I believe it is important for Missouri to pass tax credit reform. As I see it, the gauge of a person’s priorities can be found in where they decide to spend their money. This is true for state government and the way in which your elected representatives decide to spend your hard earned tax dollars.
The method by which we do this is the appropriation process, where we ask each of the state’s expenses to stand in line before the General Assembly; requiring them to demonstrate why, with limited resources, they should be funded over others. But while those, like education and healthcare, wait in line, the politically connected who receive tax credits, cut to the front of the line, taking $521 million last year before one dollar is spent on other vital state services. Then when education finally reaches the front of the line, the politicians tell teachers and students, sorry, we don’t have the money to fund our educational needs.
The process by which tax credit takers cut to the front of the appropriations line can be seen as to where Missouri stands relative to other state spending priorities. In SFY 2009, Missouri was first in the nation for historic preservation tax credits ($186 million) and second for low-income housing tax credits ($106 million). But at the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Missouri is 45th in per capita funding of higher education and 32nd in per capita funding for K-12.
Politicians always say education is their number one priority, yet their actions show a different truth. They continue to show tax credits are their number one priority by failing to fully fund the K-12 education foundation formula, cutting from school districts transportation money, and not funding career ladder while increasing tax credits by 407.9% over the last 12 years.
In my opinion, Missouri’s number one priority should be education; and our spending on K-12 education, higher education, parents as teachers, career ladder, and school transportation should reflect that priority. It is not enough to say education is your number one priority, without a plan in place to weigh the benefits of a dollar spent on education versus a dollar spent on some nameless tax credit.
My plan is to subject tax credits to the appropriations process, making every expenditure stand in line and preventing playing favorites by allowing those who are receiving tax credits to cut to the front of the appropriations line. In this transparent process, politicians will have the chance to look at all the things we spend your tax dollars on and prioritize accordingly.
Over the next few weeks, I will share with you the waste that goes into Missouri’s tax credits and the cost to those waiting patiently in the appropriations line. I believe we must change our use of tax credits and I am calling for fundamental reform.
As I go through this series, it is important to me to know your thoughts on tax credits and how we spend your money. Your elected representatives work for you, not the other way around, therefore, your feedback is extremely important. I also would like to know what other issues you would like to know more about so in future Capitol Reports, I can share with you what we are doing in those areas.