JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. T.J. Berry, one of the state’s most vocal proponents of tax cuts as an economic driver, wants to help some Missourians repay their student loans.
HB 253 — which Berry intentionally sought to give the same numerical designation as the controversial and defunct tax credit he sponsored two years ago — would authorize a tax credit of up to $3,000 across 10 years or $5,000 across six years to any Missouri state employee with a degree in a S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) practice and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5.
“The debt level of the average student in Missouri is $30,000,” Berry said. “That prevents people from engaging in the economy in the way previous generations have. If you create a mechanism to pay back those loans, you create an environment where you’re retaining the best talent.”
Berry said the typical hostility with which new tax credit programs are greeted is somewhat mitigated on his bill, largely because it doesn’t aim to “pick individual winners and losers.”
“The way we paid for MOSIRA was with growth in a specific industry, it wasn’t from current revenue, and we’re going to have the same thing for this,” Berry said.
The bill has no fiscal note yet, but Berry says he believes most, if not all, of the funding can be found without new spending from the state’s general revenue account.
Berry’s bill isn’t the only one to focus on S.T.E.M. fields. Rep. Ron Hicks, R-O’Fallon, filed HB 301. The bill “allows an employer that hires a student majoring in the field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at a Missouri college or university for an internship position in one of those areas to apply to have up to $5,000 of the employer’s state tax liability removed from the general fund and placed in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Fund.”
In order to qualify, an internship must be at least 12 weeks in length and consist of at least 15 hours of work per week. No individual employer may exceed $50,000 in tax credits in any single year.
“We need to be hyper-competitive in those fields,” Berry said. “New jobs, new technology and manufacturing are almost entirely from those fields.”
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.