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Despite absences, Governor’s tax committee close to doing work

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The governor’s new tax committee comes one step closer to having the required four town hall meetings.

The Governor’s Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes met on Monday at noon in the Truman Building, with the number of committee members attending in person decreased again this week.

In the latest meeting, only three members of the 10-person committee were seated in the chairs of Room 750 in the Truman Building: Chairman Joel Walters, Sen. Dan Hegeman, and Rep. Jay Barnes.

Former Sen. Jason Crowell, Rep. Elijah Haahr, Rep. Holly Rehder, and Sen. Will Kraus attended by phone, with former Sen. John Lamping, Sen. Andrew Koenig, and Vice Chairman Will Scharf not present. The committee was forced to wait until the end of the meeting to vote to approve last week’s minutes, due to the fact that the absent or late members prevented them from having a quorum.

The committee also heard testimony from Randy Hilger, the chairman of the Missouri Study Commission on State Tax Policy, a committee that was established by House Bill 384 in 2015.

Lawmakers tasked the committee with performing a comprehensive review of Missouri’s state and local tax structure and developing ways to modernize the tax system and maximize economic development and growth, basically the same topics that Gov. Eric Greitens’ committee is looking into. The Missouri Study Commission on State Tax Policy is expected to release their findings by Dec. 21, 2017.

The latest meeting featured presentations from Aaron Hedlund, an economics professor at the University of Missouri, who addressed the committee on the topic of several types of taxes.

Hedlund explained that Missouri had been losing economic ground to other states for years, saying that the Show-Me State had fallen from receiving one-fiftieth of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) to one-sixtieth. He discussed multiple types of taxes with the members of the committee, including the income tax and corporate income tax.

“Every tax discourages something,” Hedlund said, saying that the individual income tax discourages work, investment, and saving. He said Missouri had two options: they could reduce the rate of the income tax, or increase the threshold, which currently sits at $9,000. 

He also encouraged the committee to make sure Missouri avoided doing what Kansas had done, cutting taxes without cutting spending.

The committee released their request for written comments earlier in April, which they will continue to accept until May 10. You can find the list of questions the committee is asking here.

Walters said that they have started to receive comments, which they will enter into the record. He also said that the first town hall meeting is scheduled to take place on May 17th.

“The plan for those is in the process, and we’ve just about finally confirmed on the locations and details, and will make all of that available publicly as soon as we can, but we’re very close to getting them done,” Walters said. 

Like past committees formed by past governors to review tax policy, this committee will also compile a report on the state tax policies. The committee has until June 31 to put together their report for the Governor.