In November 2012, I sent out a wake-up call to southwest Missouri in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch opinion article titled, “Time to rein in Missouri's tax credits.” Missouri's various tax credit programs were then, and still are now, out of control. Hardworking Missourians are being robbed to the tune of $500 million every year.
To put this waste into perspective, Missouri gives out more in tax credits than we invest in corrections, mental health, the Missouri Department of Transportation and early childhood education. While some tax credit programs are beneficial, many have grown to the point that they are having a significant and detrimental impact on the amount of state revenue available to fund our public schools and other essential services.
Funding for tax credits comes right off the top of the state budget, even before we pay our debts or fund public education, which by the way, is a constitutional obligation in Missouri. Tax credits have slowly, but surely, allowed special interests to make big bucks off Missouri taxpayers. Despite calls by some policymakers in Jefferson City, they can’t seem to wean these special interests off of these handouts. However, that may change very soon.
Anyone who listened to Gov. Eric Greitens present his budget last week at Nixa Public Schools’ Early Childhood Center understands Missouri's budget is in dire condition.
However, if you have followed actions taken by the governor during his first weeks in office, you know tax credit reform is one of his passions. Once you look at the state of our current budget, you can see why Greitens realizes we may have enough money to do most anything we want to do, just not everything. It requires focusing on what matters most and prioritizing for the greater good of Missouri residents.
According to the governor, we have been left with a $700 million deficit. Unlike Washington, D.C., our state cannot print money and Missouri's Constitution requires the budget to be balanced.
Our school districts will see a reduction in state money for transportation services, our colleges and universities will see a reduction in their operating budgets, and some of our nursing homes will see a reduction in the reimbursement rate they receive from the state. I list these not to be critical of the decision to reduce the expenditures, but to highlight what happens when Missouri’s fiscal house is not in order.
We don't need to raise taxes to provide the additional revenue needed to invest in our state’s priorities; we need to rein in tax credit spending. Hats off to Greitens for moving forward with a complete review of the Missouri’s tax credit programs to see exactly where the money is going. This is the first step in getting this huge revenue draining hole plugged.
The longer we wait to solve this problem, the longer we wait to make the investments in our state allowing our residents and students to prosper. I offer my full support to Greitens and anyone else who is willing to take this problem head on.
If tax credits seem out of line to you too, then I urge you to speak up as well because we now have an ear that’s listening.
—Stephen Kleinsmith, superintendent of Nixa Public Schools
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