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5/16 - Missouri House Concludes Successful Session With Focus on Property Tax Relief and Immigration Reform
Jefferson City – The Missouri House concluded business for the 2008 legislative session with a flurry of activity that resulted in the passage of several priority issues ranging from property tax relief to illegal immigration reform. House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, praised his colleagues for working together to secure passage of legislation that builds upon the legislative successes of previous years with a focus on protecting Missouri taxpayers.
“During my time here, we have worked to turn Missouri around and to pull it from the brink of financial disaster. I’m proud of the fact we have been able to accomplish so much without a tax increase of any sort. In fact, we’ve been able to cut taxes several times during my time in the House,” said Speaker Jetton. “I am excited I was able to finish my time here on a high note by offering property tax relief to Missourians who have suffered from excessive rate increases and by filling the void left by the inaction of the federal government in dealing with the problems posed by illegal immigration.”
On the final day of session the House gave approval to a property tax relief bill (SB 711) that will protect taxpayers from excessive property tax increases after reassessment. The bill requires taxing jurisdictions to roll back their tax rate to counter reassessment increases regardless of whether they are operating at or below their tax rate ceiling. The bill also offers assistance to Missourians struggling to afford their property tax bills by expanding a tax credit program for senior and disabled homeowners.
The illegal immigration legislation passed by the House addresses a wide range of issues to help the state deal with this growing problem. Among other things, the bill (HB 1549, 1771, 1395 & 2366) ensures illegal immigrants do not receive public benefits and that municipalities do not adopt sanctuary policies that are conducive to harboring those who are here illegally. The bill also cracks down on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized aliens and authorizes additional training for Missouri Highway Patrol members so they are better able to enforce federal immigration laws.
“I’ve talked with people from all areas of the state who are struggling to afford some of the excessive property tax increases that have nearly driven them out of their homes. There are certain areas where it has been worse than others but this is a statewide issue and something that will provide significant tax relief to all homeowners and especially our seniors and disabled Missourians,” said Speaker Jetton. “Just as important as the property tax relief legislation was our package of bills designed to curb the illegal immigration issue that has become such a huge problem here in Missouri and around the nation. Our goal was to ensure unlawful aliens do not receive benefits paid for by hard working Missouri taxpayers who are here legally. We also wanted to send a strong message that illegal immigrants are not welcome here and that it will be tough to find an employer who will hire them or a city that will provide them with sanctuary. I believe the legislation we passed this session does that.”
In addition to those pieces of legislation, the House approved a $22.4 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2009. The spending plan includes an increase of $136.7 million in direct state aid to public elementary and secondary schools. Included in that is a $121.3 million increase for the state’s foundation formula. The budget also includes a $43 million increase for Missouri’s colleges and universities. In addition, the budget authorizes a $334.4 million increase for the state’s MO HealthNet program and an increase of $155.4 million for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s construction program.
Other legislative highlights from the 2008 legislative session include:
• Legislation (HB 2393) that offers an incentive package that could trigger an aircraft manufacturing company to invest $400 million into building a passenger jet assembly plant at the Kansas City International Airport that would employ 2,100 people. Under the bill, Missouri would offer up to $240 million in tax credits over eight years, beginning in 2013, based on the number of employees hired at the assembly plant.
• A wide-ranging economic development bill that includes an extension and expansion of the Missouri Quality Jobs Act that has been extremely successful in bringing high-paying jobs with health insurance benefits to Missouri. SB 718 extends the tax credit program through August 30, 2013 and increases the maximum amount of tax credits that can be issued under the act from $40 million to $60 million. The bill also includes an expansion of the Enhanced Enterprise Zone program.
• Legislation (SB 1038) that repeals campaign contribution limits in order to bring more transparency to the campaign process by minimizing the impact of third party committees and ensuring Missourians know how much money candidates are raising and where it's coming from.
• A bill (HB 2188) that protects consumers and lets those looking to take advantage of homebuyers know that Missouri will not tolerate mortgage fraud. The legislation places local prosecutors on the same footing as federal investigators who were the only ones that were able to prosecute offenders and were extremely inefficient in taking care of the problem. It also creates civil and criminal penalties for residential mortgage fraud.
• Legislation (HB 2062, 1678 & 1518) that provides Missouri soldiers returning from duty and their families with additional educational and career advancement opportunities. The bill creates the Returning Heroes Education Act to provide veterans with tuition assistance for obtaining a college degree. It also creates the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and enacts other provisions to improve educational opportunities for the children of military personnel.
• Legislation (SB 724) that strengthens the monitoring procedures for over-the-counter drugs used to make meth. The bill requires pharmacies to upgrade to an electronic, rather than a written log, which records when a pseudoephedrine product is purchased and who is the purchaser. The act also specifies that the photo ID provided by the buyer of pseudoephedrine products be issued by a state or the federal government and shown prior to the purchase.
“We have a long list of accomplishments to be proud of and I am thankful my colleagues worked so hard to pass these bills that will make a real difference in the lives of so many Missourians,” said Speaker Jetton. “We’ve gone from a state that was headed toward financial disaster with no hope in sight to one that has budget surpluses that have allowed us lessen the tax burden on hardworking Missourians. As I leave the legislature behind I will take great pride in the fact we have been able to do this and that it was done without a tax increase of any kind. That to me is a remarkable accomplishment.”
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