House Minority Leader Paul LeVota today called on the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives to consider a wide range of options when the budget debate resumes next week, including eliminating certain loopholes and exemptions in the state tax code and reining in tax credits.
“Over most of the last decade, the Republican-controlled legislature’s method of budget management has been to erode the tax base through special interest giveaways and slash state services,” said LeVota, D-Independence. “Due to these failed policies, Missouri has stumbled aimlessly from one budget crisis to the next and fallen into a deep financial hole that will be difficult to crawl out of. Cutting alone is not the way to financial prosperity and a stable state budget. Missouri Republicans have tried that repeatedly, and it hasn’t worked.”
Respected budget expert Jim Moody, who served as the state budget director during Republican Gov. John Ashcroft’s administration, noted in the latest of his long-running series of reports on the state budget that between FY 1975 and FY 2001 Missouri didn’t experience a single year in which general revenue collections decreased. From FY 2002 through FY 2010, however, Missouri has had four years of negative general revenue growth, Moody said. That number increases to five when including the FY 2011 budget, which lawmakers currently are working on.
House Democrats favor eliminating special deals that provide tax breaks only to a privileged few. Options could include bills filed by Republican lawmakers to repeal the tax exemption on luxury yachts. In addition, lawmakers should evaluate Missouri’s numerous tax credits and eliminate those that aren’t delivering the promised return to the state. Tax credits, which have greatly expanded in the last decade, currently cost the state nearly $600 million a year in lost revenue.
Although House Democrats want to pursue a bipartisan budget solution, they are still waiting for leadership and guidance from House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin.
“One thing that has been absolutely clear for the last eight years is that if the House Republican majority doesn’t want to do something, it isn’t going to happen,” LeVota said. “Any budget solution is going to have to have Republican support because, as the speaker is so fond of reminding us, Republicans run the House, not Democrats.”
In a March 6 interview with The Joplin Globe about the budget situation, Speaker Richard reinforced that point when he said: “What I have to do, I have to get 82 votes out of 89 people. I have to get 82 votes, so I’m moving back and forth, up and down, side to side to see what people like and don’t like, and this is what I do to try to get this moved to the Senate.”
The 82 votes Richard referred to is the number needed to pass legislation in the House, while the 89 people refers to the number of House Republicans, counting a vacant seat last held by a Republican. Including the 74 Democrats, there are 163 total House seats.
“It isn’t surprising that the speaker says he needs to get 82 of 89 votes to pass the budget instead of 82 of 163, since input from House Democrats has never been welcome in the past,” LeVota said. “For the sake of solving this crisis, we can only hope House Republicans will change their traditional way of operating and welcome ideas from all members.”
As difficult as the FY 2011 budget is proving to be, the FY 2012 budget is expected to be far worse, which makes establishing long-term budget stability even more imperative.
“Short-term fixes that only get us through the fiscal year will just leave us in the same spot next year,” LeVota said. “Missouri needs a more forward-thinking approach that puts the state on a sound financial footing for the future.”
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
LeVota: House Democrats waiting to see leadership from Richard
House Minority Leader Paul LeVota is looking for some leadership from Speaker of the House Ron Richard on the current budget situation. From a news release issued today: