Thursday, February 14, 2013

Schmitt Delivers Tax Credit Reform Out of Committee

Senate Economic Development Chair Eric Schmitt presented a senate committee substitute of his freight-forwarding bill, and then passed it out of committee yesterday.  See the substitute here.

 

The substitute is something of a “global” tax credit reform bill.  It adds data centers, and freight forwarders while lowering the caps on historic preservation and low income housing tax credits.  Overall the bill has a positive fiscal note of $830 million over 15 years.

 

It’ll be interesting to see whether this become the star which draws all the other tax credit proposals into its orbit.  In the past the gravitational pull of the global tax credit reform has been too strong, pulling everything into it, and becoming a black hole as a result. Schmitt has tried to avoid that scenario by starting with sporting events and benevolent credits separately.

 

With the distressed land assemblage and the angel investor credits out there, we’ll see whether this reform package can truly stand on its own or whether it gets tangled up in negotiations with the House.  One must assume that entanglement is the most likely scenario.

 

 

Perfect and Good

Every session gets its own catch-phrase.  In the past we’ve had “Gucci suits” and “skin in the game” and “game-changer.”

 

So far this session it seems to be the old proverb: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

 

I’ve heard it from numerous lobbyists and legislators about a variety of pieces of legislation.  It seems to be – at least in part – a reaction to the field of stalemates of the past couple of sessions.  Folks want to make some progress on the stickiest issues whether it’s tax credits or workers compensation.  They’ll live 50% progress and know that there will be other years get another 20% or 30%.

 

Also, some are wary of opponents of legislation using the “perfect” to derail any incremental change.  In particular, one lobbyist mentioned former senator Jason Crowell’s insistence on tax credit sunsets which doomed any movement on the issue for years.  In hindsight, he wonders, was that Crowell’s plan all along?

 

 

8-CD Talk

One savvy Republican observer – Dems best chance in CD-8 is to use the special election to bloody up Jason Smith.  Then switch candidates in 2014, and hope for a divisive Republican primary to weaken him even farther before November.

 

Speaking of the 2014 primary, it’s said that all eyes will be on Cape Girardeau.  If they could somehow unify behind a single candidate, Smith will be in real trouble trying to hang onto the seat.  But more likely they split between several candidates and Smith survives.  One Republican in the building only half-jokes, “Smith should pick up and live in the Cape for the next 18 months.”

 

And

Southeast Missourians reports that Rep. Steve Hodges is jumping in on the Dem side.  Read it here (and see a very scary picture of Hodges).

 

 

Waiting…

Between the ALEC cookie-cutter legislation and yesterday’s hours and hours of debating a voter ID proposal that has been offered every year in recent memory, there’s some sense the lower chamber’s majority has run out of ideas.

 

The potential fresh air for the chamber is expected to come from two Republican representatives who will buck orthodoxy with new thinking.  Rep. Todd Richardson should have an ethics reform bill coming, and Rep. Jay Barnes is still working on his Medicaid transformation bill.

 

Richardson’s – if he goes after sacred cows like campaign limits – could be unpopular with leadership.  And Barnes’ bill will turn off not just the far-right that won’t read any bill with the word Medicaid in it, but probably also a lot of Dems who will recoil at his vision of “expansion.”

 

However cold the reception of their proposals, I would predict that both become blueprints for future years when the legislature revisits these issues.  Sometimes leading means you lose the short-term votes, but secure the intellectual ground in which victory is eventually won.

 

 

Ready, Fire Aim?

Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the Senate perfecting SB1, the Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM), apparently had one confused blogger.  They first posted an article blasting the bill, and then pulled it, replacing it will one which almost sounds supportive…

 

The First Post (link now dead)

The Missouri Senate last night gave first round approval to Senate Bill 1, a bill that addresses the Missouri Second Injury Fund, but the bill is unacceptable to employers because of provisions that establish enhanced benefits for toxic exposure claims.

 

“The Missouri Senate has approved paying victims of diseases resulting from toxic exposure large amounts under the worker’s compensation system, and would force all Missouri employers to pay for them by an open-ended and uncapped surcharge through the Second Injury Fund,” said Ray McCarty, President of Associated Industries of Missouri.  “We will fight hard to prevent this blank check to trial attorneys drawn on Missouri employers’ accounts from becoming law,” said McCarty.

 

The bill would ensure coverage for “occupational diseases” under WC, but establishes special enhanced benefits for 10 diseases at around $156,000.  The bill then socializes the cost by paying the claims from Missouri’s Second Injury Fund.  The bill also allows mesothelioma victims an additional benefit of about $450,000 (total of $600,000), also paid from the Second Injury Fund.  To pay for these benefits, an additional Second Injury Fund surcharge with no limit will be assessed against every Missouri employer.

 

This is a horrible bill in its current form and AIM will work with other employer groups to remove this ridiculous financial assault on employers.

 

 

The Second Kinder, Gentler Post (see it here)

The Missouri Senate last night gave first round approval to Senate Bill 1, a bill that addresses the Missouri Second Injury Fund.  The bill contains important reforms for the Second Injury Fund that have long been a priority of Associated Industries of Missouri.

 

The bill would ensure coverage for “occupational diseases” under WC, but establishes special enhanced benefits for 10 diseases at around $156,000.  The bill then socializes the cost by paying the claims from Missouri’s Second Injury Fund.  The bill also allows mesothelioma victims an additional benefit of about $450,000 (total of $600,000), also paid from the Second Injury Fund.  To pay for these benefits, an additional Second Injury Fund surcharge with no limit will be assessed against every Missouri employer.  AIM will continue to work for positive changes in this part of the bill, including establishment of a reasonable cap on the amount of surcharge that may be assessed.

 

The Second Injury Fund would be reformed by eliminating permanent partial disability claims.  These claims currently cause an absurd result in that workers that are more than 100% disabled are still able to work.  Eliminating the permanent partial disability claims will end this illogical practice.  Permanent total disability claims that are the result of a previous work related injury, that are related to military service, or that are aggravated or accelerated by a previous injury would still be allowed.  Other claims that are currently allowed against the Second Injury Fund for non-work related injuries or conditions would no longer be allowed under the bill.  The interest rate on pending claims would be nearly cut in half, and other reforms that AIM has advocated would be implemented under the bill.

 

The Missouri Senate will take one additional vote on the bill before advancing it to the Missouri House, possibly later this week.

 

 

Committee Appointments

Sen. Gary Romine to the Joint Committee on Tax Increment Financing.

Sen. Bob Dixon to the Court Automation Committee.

Sen. Ryan Silvey to the Joint Committee on Legislative Research.

 

 

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

 

McClain Bryant added HNTB.

Lisa Clancy added Children’s Education Council of Missouri.

Shelia C Short added Missouri Equine Council Inc.

 

 

$5K+ Contributions

Slay for Mayor - $15,000 from Ameren.

 

 

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Katie Jamborez.