Kansas City Star reports that Department of Revenue Director Joel Walters will be resigning today. See the story here.
This comes as Rudi Keller reported that DOR revised a media alert last fall to soft-pedal the withholding problem. See his story here.
When it was revising withholding tables as income tax receipts fell unexpectedly last year, the Missouri Department of Revenue prepared a news release that, in bold type at the top, advised “Taxpayers Encouraged to Increase Withholdings for the Remainder of 2018.” The draft was never issued. In its place came a release with the headline “Missouri Department of Revenue Updating the State’s Tax Tables” that stated “adjustments are being made to ensure increased predictability for taxpayers.”
And just weeks after Walters “changed his story” about whether there was an error in the withholding tables at all.
Speaker Elijah Haahr: “I want to thank Representative Ross and the members of his committee for leading our efforts to protect Missouri taxpayers. Without the investigation, oversight, and hearings they insisted upon, the people would never have known the truth about the mistakes made by the revenue department…”
Floor Leader Rob Vescovo: “Clearly, the committee was not grandstanding, but instead was standing up for the people of our state. Now it's time for new leadership in the department that will operate with integrity and transparency…”
Minority Leader Crystal Quade: “The resignation of Director Walters is just a first step that must include Governor Parson taking full responsibility for his administration’s failures and committing to providing relief to those Missourians who are in a financial bind as a result.”
What It Means
A lot of folks were scratching their heads over Governor Mike Parson’s statement a few weeks ago, standing up for Walters and knocking the House’s hearings as “grandstanding.” Scratch no more. It was simply a political mistake. The governor is cutting his losses and canceling the Joel Walters Show. But it’s a big win for the House – majority and minority – because it vindicates their vigilance for oversight of the executive branch. The next time they face pressure from the governor’s office to knock off an inquiry, they’ll remember this.
One building denizen asks “who takes the blame now when the budget is out whack?” Good question because….
The daily state revenue numbers (from the close of business March 13): fiscal year-to-date net revenue is negative 6.29%, or $398.8 million.
The Eigel-Libla Divide
In a friendly floor exchange before the Senate adjourned for Spring Break Sens. Bill Eigel and Doug Libla briefly sparred, outlining their conflicting views of the path forward for road funding.
Eigel opened with the observation that despite the generally rising revenue into the state’s coffers each year, he feels continually besieged with legislation containing tax increases. He vowed to resist these new proposals.
Libla remarked that he agreed with 95% of Eigel’s soliloquy, but… roads are an exception for two reasons. First, the gas tax has been unchanged for decades. Between more fuel efficient cars and the effect of inflation, this means we are spending fewer real dollars each year on our roads. Second, using general revenue to fund transportation means that the entire burden of roads falls to Missourians. Using a fuel tax instead allows for trucks and out-of-state user of our roads to pay their fair share.
Eigel responded that he will be bringing a few plans after Spring Break to provide for funding without raising taxes.
Petition to Reinstate Aull
One MOScouter pointed me to this… Controversy in Lexington, where former State Rep. Joe Aull was abruptly fired as City Administrator. Aull’s son-in-law started a Change.org petition, which says, in part: “He has been the high school principal. He has been the Lexington school superintendent. He has been a Missouri State Representative for Lexington's district. He has been the Vice President of Academics / high school principal of Wentworth. And he has been the City Administrator of Lexington. Yet he was fired and told to clear out with ZERO explanation?”
See the petition here.
Brown Arrest Bits
· ABC17 gets a phone interview with the off-duty cop who witness the bar fight of staffer Jared Brown. Listen to it here.
· MOScouter: “The 2nd Amendment nuts who want to allow guns in bars can thank Jared [Brown] for being a persuasive lesson against it.”
· Post-Dispatch editorializes about it here.
Tough Times in Ferrelview
Auditor Nicole Galloway released an audit of the Village of Ferrelview. From the press release:
The General Fund balance at the end of 2017 was $19,000; however, the village owes more than $20,000 to the Missouri Department of Revenue for excess revenues collected from traffic tickets. Fiscal management was further complicated because the village did not prepare a budget for the 2016 or 2017 fiscal year… Village streets are in poor condition… The village is eligible for approximately $68,000 in funding for road improvements through a countywide transportation sales tax, but has not requested funds from the county. The report also noted no funds have been set aside for repairs or maintenance of the water and sewer system, despite aging infrastructure…
Ferrelview is represented by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer and Rep. Vic Allred.
Jackson County Cares - $10,000 from Jewish Family Services.
American Property Casualty Insurance Association Political Account - $90,747 from American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
Peter Barnes added American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.
Shanon Hawk and Scott Swain added Kingdom Principles Inc.
George Oestreich added Relias.
David Winton added Home Dock Cities Association.
John Arthur Young added Fischer & Frichtel Custom Homes LLC.
Happy birthdays to Adam Gresham, and Gary McElyea.
Saturday: Melissa Randol, Jon Dolan, and former Rep. Tom Villa.
Sunday: Joe Maxwell, Patrick Lynn, Earl Simms, Tom Self, and Todd Smith.
With the legislature on Spring Break, there will be no “Weekender” edition tomorrow. But I will be doing morning Updates next week.