Senate signs off on tax reform bill, House has final say

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – “Here we are again,” Sen. Bill Eigel said Tuesday night as he brought forward HB 2540 once again. “The body is probably worn out from me talking about taxes.”

With just days left until the deadline for the 2018 legislative session, many had assumed that Eigel’s pet project was dead in the water.

Indeed, his actual bill dealing with tax reform floundered this session when Sen. Mike Cunningham kept the bill from leaving the Committee on Fiscal Oversight. It would’ve been the largest tax cut in the history of the state.

But Eigel still had the opportunity to move forward with tax reform legislation as the Senate sponsor for HB 2540, a bill similar to his own, put forward by House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr. The two versions differed in several slight ways, but the largest difference was how each version sought to provide more funding for transportation. Eigel looked to an increase of the fuel tax, while Haahr instead looked toward increasing some user fees.

However, neither provision was meant to be, as the Senate committee that heard the bill gutted the 400-plus page bill down to 11 pages. Gone were the provisions regarding the transportation funding, along with several other provisions.

What was left was a much simpler bill, including a .4 reduction, a phased out federal income tax reduction, and a small language fix for SB 509.

Since then, Eigel has sought to push the bill forward once more, and he got that chance in the upper chambers on Monday night. But instead of passage, the bill was laid over, with Eigel hearing from a number of senators about reasons they didn’t like the bill as Haahr watched from the upper gallery of the Senate.

But the bill had been reduced even further, losing some language regarding the Quill decision that lies before the U.S. Supreme Court right now, as well as the provision creating an earned income tax credit to aid low-income Missourians. Some senators wanted the fuel tax language added back on, but it did not happen.

“We came to the realization or feeling that trying to address transportation on this bill wasn’t going to be a good fit, so we moved on from that as well,” Eigel said.

Eigel finished the night by telling his colleagues that he was disappointed in what he had seen and that he felt commitments had been broken.

It seemed that the bill was done.

But on Tuesday evening, the bill was called forward once again, and not committing to anything, Eigel said that he believed the finish line could be in sight, that there still remained a path forward, to deal with the bill as it was before them now.

And with a little debate, the Senate put the measure to a vote, passing it 24-9.

For Eigel, it was a victory, though not in the original fashion. Instead, it represents a step in the right direction, a path he will continue looking forward to in the coming sessions.

Now, the bill heads to the House, where it will be up to Haahr to take the changed bill and push it to the Governor’s desk. While some say it could be easier said than done, without all of the other provisions, but being in its simplest of forms, the tax reform still represents a significant cut for working Missourians.

For now, tax reform for Missouri lies squarely on Haahr’s shoulders.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.