This blog features observations from Randy Turner, a former teacher, newspaper reporter and editor. Send news items or comments to email@example.com
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Ron Richard: I refuse to balance the budget by raising taxes on hard-working Missourians
In his weekly report. Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, gives an update on bills he has sponsored and reiterates his refusal to vote for any tax increases.
We are now over halfway through the legislative session. The schedule for the first half is usually filled with committee hearings, appointments and the filing of bills. As we move into the second half, the pace will pick up as we begin debating legislation on the floor. We will also continue working on the state budget, which will be a difficult process as we try to maintain funding to the critical functions of government while accounting for a major shortfall.
One of my highest legislative priorities is job creation and economic development. We’re still facing a down-turned economy, and thousands of Missouri citizens are out of work. I filed two bills this session—both aimed at creating jobs and boosting Missouri’s economy—that I’m optimistic will make it to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 584 would create a tax incentive to help bring data storage centers to Missouri. By attracting these tech companies to our state, we can create high-quality jobs in an innovate industry that is sure to continue growing. This bill is especially important for southwest Missouri because we have an abundance of sites that are ideal for the relocation of data storage centers.
Senate Bill 588 would capture a portion of revenue from amateur sporting events, and reinvest those funds in helping communities recruit new events. Amateur sports are a multi-million dollar industry, and states that host these events, such as college championship games, bring in millions of tourism dollars that support local businesses and generate state revenue.
The Senate will also continue working on Senate Bill 439, which would reform Missouri’s prevailing wage system. Currently, the prevailing wage is supposed to be based on data from the county where the work is to be done. If no data was submitted, however, the system uses collective bargaining agreements from major metro areas. This can lead to prevailing wage amounts that are grossly inflated and not at all accurate for an area, as median incomes and the cost of living differ greatly from one part of the state to another.
The prevailing wage requirement can also put a high burden on communities recovering from disasters. Government projects, critical to helping an area rebuild, often have to be downgraded to meet prevailing wage amounts that grossly inflate labor costs.
Senate Bill 439 would fix the system by suspending the prevailing wage requirement in federally declared disaster areas. It would also cut out the state’s role in determining the prevailing wage, and instead base it on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, which uses surveys to calculate the rate of pay for almost every occupation in almost every county in America. These would be huge improvements in our prevailing wage system and make it work more how it was originally intended. We’ve already debated the bill on the Senate floor and are likely to take it up again in the near future.
The House is in the final phase of passing the 13 bills that make up the state’s spending plan. With the approval of the House, these bills now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the full Senate for debate. After the Senate approves its version of the budget, amended bills return to the House for its approval. If an agreement can’t be reached on a particular budget bill, a conference committee will meet to iron out the differences between the two versions.
A large portion of the remaining session will be taken up with crafting the state’s budget, our only constitutionally mandated duty. For the last four years we’ve dealt with a down-sized budget, and this year will be no different. We’re facing a significant shortfall, and nearly every cut proposed by both the governor and the House has been met with controversy.
We will have to make tough choices to balance our budget. Unlike the federal government, we can only spend what we have. I refuse, however, to balance the budget by raising taxes on hard-working Missourians. The General Assembly has until May 11 to finalize the budget plan.
As we move forward, I will continue to keep you updated on all the important events taking place in your state Capitol.