Legislature Can Take Immediate Steps in 2016 to Lay the Groundwork for a More Prosperous Future
All Missourians want the best for our families. We want our children to have quality public schools that start them off right toward pursuing their dreams; we want our families to have access to affordable health care to help us thrive and build strong communities; and we want an infrastructure that supports a strong economy.
Unfortunately, especially over the last few years, our state has lost its focus on these goals. When times were tough, Missouri lawmakers chose to cut services that benefit us all, like education and health care, rather than taking the long view and enacting policies that would have strengthened our state. A new series of reports from the Missouri Budget Project examines these cuts, and recommends that lawmakers enact two common sense tax and budget policies in the next legislative session.
Missouri still has not fully regained ground lost since the Great Recession of 2008. When adjusted for inflation, the resources our state has to invest in the education and health of our citizens remain below 2008 levels.
“Our state’s disinvestment in Missourians has had many serious consequences for our wellbeing and quality of life,” said Amy Blouin, Executive Director of the Missouri Budget Project. “But we can do better in Missouri, making sure that we’re the kind of state where working hard means you can get ahead, where our children look forward to a bright future, and our seniors are secure in their retirement. What’s more, we would strengthen our economy and economic competitiveness in the process.”
Among other findings, the report highlights the importance of:
- Investing in a Strong Start: Public investments in early learning opportunities like home visiting, quality child care, and preschool not only provide children a solid foundation, but pay off for taxpayers in the long run. Unfortunately, Missouri’s investments in early learning opportunities have decreased over the last seven years, likely creating gaps in school readiness for a generation of children.
- Investing in Our Students: By shortchanging our K-12 schools, the burden for ensuring school funding is falling increasingly to localities, setting the stage for enhanced funding disparities between school districts. 92% of counties have raised property tax rates for schools, by an average of 11.5% since 2001.
- Investing in a Skilled Workforce: State funding for four-year colleges has dropped since 2000, while tuition has increased 14%. Not surprisingly, over the same timeframe, debt for Missouri students has also increased, rising by 22.9 percent between 2008 and 2013.
- Investing in Healthy Families: Although a healthy Missouri is a fundamental building block of a prosperous economy and good quality of life, our investments in critical health services have declined over the last decade. In 1990, Missouri was ranked as the 24th healthiest state, but dropped to 36th by 2014.
“But in 2016 we can begin laying the foundation for a more prosperous future,” continued Blouin. “By enacting Medicaid expansion and updating our tax laws for a changing economy, our lawmakers can start rebuilding adequate funding for our schools and improve the lives of Missouri families.”
We Can Do Better
- Expand Medicaid Eligibility: Improve the Health of Missourians & Save Taxpayer Money
Other states have realized significant state budget savings by expanding Medicaid, in addition to providing critical health care to their residents. In Missouri, annual net savings to general revenue would exceed $100 million annually – funds that could be used to improve the lives of Missourians and strengthen our economic competitiveness.
- Enact the Streamlined Sales Tax: Strengthen State Services & Level the Playing Field for Missouri Retailers
Our state’s tax laws have failed to keep pace with a changing economy. As a result, online retailers have a competitive advantage over local bricks and mortar businesses. By joining 24 other states that have enacted the streamlined sales tax collections mechanism, Missouri can begin to recoup sales taxes that are owed for online retail purchases, but which go uncollected. With additional federal legislation, Missouri could recover more than $350 million annually in state and local sales taxes.
“A better future awaits when we Invest in Missouri,” concluded Blouin. “And lawmakers can kickstart that future when they convene in January.”