Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crowell job plan offers warmed-over GOP talking points

In his weekly column. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, offers his jobs plan, but there seems to be little new in it- just warmed over right wing talking points and much praising of right-to-work.

The horrible job numbers recently reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the Obama/Nixon economic plan is not working. During December of 2011, Missouri lost a net of 11,800 jobs leaving 245,200 unemployed. With an eight percent unemployment rate, where the labor force is growing and the number of jobs is declining, it is time to change how Missouri approaches job creation. I was told growing up, “if you always do what you always did, then you will always get what you always got.” And that is unacceptable! Missouri deserves better; you deserve better.

While many people talk about how to improve Missouri’s economy, very few have a plan to create real jobs and provide accountability to taxpayers. This means in Missouri, we must reform our current regulations that impose heavy costs on employers and prevent new jobs. We must also stop wasting your hard earned tax dollars and start investing in our future that will help make Missouri competitive for jobs. When Missouri acts on real ways to create jobs, provide transparency in how taxpayers’ dollars are spent, and ensure Missouri’s vital state services obligations are fully funded, then we are truly putting “Missouri First.”

Missouri First Plan

Create jobs in Missouri by removing the restrictions current law has on companies: Becoming a Right to Work state will make Missouri competitive with the bordering states of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee, all of which are Right to Work states. Current regulations in Missouri impose heavy costs on employers and cause companies to move away or avoid moving to Missouri when creating new business locations. If Missouri is going to be serious about job creation, it is time for politicians to stop protecting unions and start working for Missouri jobs.

As of October 2011, Right to Work states had positive private sector growth while Forced Union states were losing jobs. U.S. Department of Labor numbers show jobs in Right to Work states grew at 9.1%, or at 2.5 times faster than the rate of jobs in non-right to work states from 2003 to 2008. And since the beginning of 2007, all of Missouri’s surrounding Right to Work states have a higher percent change in personal income than Missouri

Guarantee Missouri’s minimum wage does not exceed the national minimum wage: The current minimum wage is tied to the Consumer Price Index and can increase each year. With Missouri’s current minimum wage, there is uncertainty for companies of the cost to employ workers. By making labor costs tied to a uniform national standard, companies will be more willing to stay or move to Missouri, adding real jobs. For employers to hire or move to Missouri, the state can no longer have an adjustable minimum wage.

Reform Missouri’s tax credit system: It is time to rein in the abundance of bailouts for big businesses through tax credits and tax diversions – none of which have done anything to add real jobs or help small businesses, the economic engine of Missouri.

When the state picks winners and losers through tax credits based on campaign contributions and promised virtual jobs, you, as a taxpayer, lose. Over the last 13 years the state’s jobs plan has been to increase tax credits, which it has done by 430.8 percent, equaling $545 million in 2011 and projected to reach $639 million in 2012. Yet, the promised jobs have not come.

Tax credits should be treated like every other state expenditure in order to weigh the benefit of a tax dollar spent on a tax credit against Missouri’s other state services. Reforming the way Missouri issues tax credits provides greater accountability and oversight to how the state spends taxpayer money.

The greatest economic development plan is to invest in a student’s education; therefore, fully funding education in Missouri should be the state’s top priority. Instead tax credits were and because of it, to balance the budget, Governor Nixon cut from our children’s education. Over the last 3 years, Missouri did not fully fund the foundation formula for K-12 education by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the state foundation formula. At the same time, over $60 million in cuts were made to transportation funding and $9 million to Parents As Teachers. Furthermore, Missouri’s funding for higher education is also being cut. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges will have to find ways, most likely through tuition and fee increases, to cover an overall reduction in higher education funding of $306.8 million from the high-water mark of 2010.

And now after 3 years of massive cuts, in order to budget for the $685 million in projected tax credits, the Governor has proposed even larger cuts for 2013. There he plans to fail to fully fund the foundation formula by whopping $466 million, cut school transportation, eliminate career ladder, and cut parents as teacher. On top of that, he is cutting higher education by another $89 million and more cut in higher education scholarships.

Now is the time to invest in our children’s educational opportunities, not cut them. If tax credits are not changed from the current redistribution of wealth that continues to create real jobs, our children’s education will continue to suffer and so will Missouri’s workforce.

Place a moratorium on Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Preservation: Two of the politicians’ favorite tax credits are Low Income Housing tax credits and Historic Preservation tax credits and it is time to stop these over market payments made to wealthy developers. In state fiscal year 2009, Missouri was first in the nation in historic preservation tax credits spending $186 million dollars and second for the amount of low-income housing tax credits spending $106 million dollars. Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri was 45th in per capita funding ($194) of higher education and 32nd in per capita funding ($9,216 per pupil) for K-12.

As you consider how poor we fund education, look at how these tax credits are being spent:

· Schultz School Senior Housing project in Cape Girardeau used state Low Income Housing tax credits to rehabilitate 45 housing units. Cost = $372,997 PER UNIT.

· Bethel Ridge Estates in Columbia received $320,476 PER UNIT for 42 units and then was awarded another $339,588 PER UNIT for 42 units for Bethel Ridge Estates II.

· Sycamore Village Apartments in Perryville received $207,500 PER UNIT for 36 units.

· Cape Riverview Apartments 2 in Cape Girardeau received $196,047 PER UNIT for 43 units

· Breezeway Estates in Perryville received $253,333 PER UNIT for 15 units

· West Court Manor in Cape Girardeau received $205,917 PER UNIT for 48 units

· Eagles Landing in East Prairie received $116,000 PER UNIT for 30 units.

· And on and on and on and on…

It is unacceptable that as we spend this amount of your money on tax credits, that according to the Department of Economic Development, you receive only 21 cents for every dollar spent on Historic Preservation tax credits and 11 cents for every dollar spent on Low- Income Housing tax credits. It is clear, these tax credits are not about job creation; they are nothing more than a sleazy political trade for campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.

After a failed special session last fall that called for new tax credits and tax diversions, it is time that Missouri’s leaders are held accountable for their deplorable spending of hard earned taxpayer dollars and be forced to look at solutions that will create jobs. This plan I offer contains real solutions that create jobs and ensure Missouri is able to meet its obligations education.

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