The Missouri General Assembly adjourned at the Constitutionally appointed hour of 6 p.m. on May 13, 2011.  We can breathe a sigh of relief that they cannot enact any “good” ideas for a few more months.  Given that United for Missouri’s issues revolve primarily around fiscal policy, there were some good ideas that passed, some bad ones and some very ugly ones this session.

Good

HEALTH CARE • HB423 passed the Health Care Compact that if signed by the governor and approved by Congress will enable Missouri to enter into a health care compact with other states to determine what health care programs are available to our residents.

HEALTH CARE LAWSUIT• HR39 and SR27 were passed urging Attorney General Chris Koster to join the Health Care Lawsuit.  United for Missouri collected nearly 50,000 signatures urging the AG to take all necessary actions to defend the people’s voice on Proposition C.  AG Koster joined the 11th Circuit in the matter State of Florida,et al., v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al, on April 11, 2011.  He specifically cited the vote on Proposition C in his letter to legislative leaders announcing the filing!

BUDGET • Didn’t increase spending. (see BAD)

DOG BREEDING • Few people in the beginning, especially during the Prop B campaign, realized the fiscal issue surrounding the proposal. I believe many of  the Missouri supporters of Prop B were well-intentioned but misguided in their support of Prop B.  However, their intentions to protect puppies and the like were honored with the passage of SB113 and SB161.  Every Missouri-based animal organization supported the fixes in SB161.  But surprise, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) did not, which means SB161 was right for Missouri!

FRANCHISE TAX • SB19 phases out tax on business assets over five years and is a good start toward reforming Missouri’s tax system.  It isn’t enough, but it’s a good step.

DRUG TESTS • HB73 requires welfare recipients suspected of using illegal drugs to undergo drug testing. Opponents don’t believe in accountability to the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the welfare programs.  Fortunately, a majority of the legislature did!

VOTER ID • SJR2 and SB3 are common sense voter reform measures.  They place a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot that would require photo IDs to vote. The bills also provide for a reasonable period for early voting. Most people are amazed by the fact that in exercising the most important act of our republic, you don’t have to show an picture ID.

SMOKING BAN • The legislature refused to adopt an amendment that would ban smoking statewide by a vote of 36-97.  The bad and ugly part of it is that local governments continue to take away the liberties of individuals and businesses by implementing such bans.

Bad

BUDGET • Continues to spend federal stimulus dollars.  It will create fiscal problems soon or require additional federal dollars to sustain.  (see Ugly)

STIMULUS • HB18 reappropriates about $450 million for projects approved in 2009 and 2010 and paid for with federal stimulus funds. While some of these funds have already been obligated, about 10% were not and should have been returned to the feds.

Ugly

BUDGET • The one agreement on both sides of the budget debate is that there is a structural budget problem.  We differ on how to address that issue and the legislature has not addressed it either.

STIMULUS • The state continued to spend stimulus dollars on recurring items.  When the money is gone, they will have to scramble to fill the void.

PROVIDER TAXES • SB62 extends various medical provider taxes that help draw federal matching funds for Medicaid program. The “federal matching funds” are tax dollars – it almost makes it seem like “free” money.  The gravy train on this program will likely end sooner or later, leaving the state with a huge financial hole.

SMALL BUSINESS • HB45 provides small businesses with a $10,000 tax deduction for every new job they create from 2011 through 2014.  These jobs must pay at least the county’s average wage. If government weren’t regulating and taxing too much already there would be no need to “give” away $10,000 per job!

As is always the case, many bad bills died an appropriate death and good bills did as well.  The House was able to pass a number of restoration of good government bills dealing with nullification, international law and the like.  Unfortunately, the Senate was unable to cope with these bills.

Many news sources are reporting that the failure of the Aerotropolis tax credit give away was the major economic development failure of the session.  If you are a “government knows best and picks excellent winners and losers” kind of person, you may be right.  The fact is the legislature’s failure to even adequately discuss, much less address, tax reform — as represented by SCS SJR1 and HJR8 as well as Right To Work — has significantly more impact on the economic future than Aerotropolis ever will.

On the other hand, the legislture failed to give away $360 million to the Chinese to establish an air cargo hub in St Louis (Aerotropolis).  The money was supposed to be for building and relocating air freighters from Chicago and around to St Louis.  Besides the obvious problem of giving away taxpayer dollars, it isn’t necessary.  The Show-Me Institute has an excellent blog post about the existing availability of space around Lambert.

Local Control of the St Louis Police Department continues to be with held from the taxpaying public of St Louis City. It’s failure is likely to result in an initiative petition that will return local control not only to St Louis but back to Kansas City as well.  The return of the police department to both cities’ taxpayers is more preferable than just St Louis. However, the initiative petition will not contain the negotiated “protections” that the legislature, St Louis City and Police Officers’ Association had agreed upon. Even when presented with the oft abused specter of “corruption” in St Louis City, voters statewide agree that local control is best by over 71%.

There is a fair chance you will see one or both of these issues in a special session, likely in September.