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Schmitt looks to double 2014 tax cut as Republicans debate 2015 priorities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Last year, Missouri Republicans overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a small tax cut bill that conservatives hailed as the “first Missouri tax cut in 100 years.” This year, Sen. Eric Schmitt is looking to double-down on that legislation despite rumors that tax policy will not be a top priority for Republicans in 2015.

Last year’s tax cut bill reduces the top income tax rate by 0.1 percent every year that the state hits it’s a specific general revenue growth trigger. The bill also included a 5 percent annual reduction in business income when the trigger was met. Schmitt’s bill, SB4, would double both the income tax rate cut and the business income cut to 0.2 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Once fully phased in, Schmitt’s bill will reduce the top income tax rate to 5 percent instead of the 5.5 percent enshrined in last year’s bill. For business income, the total reduction will cut taxed by 50 percent when fully phased in, instead of the previous 25 percent.

“I’m glad we were able to move forward last year with the first tax cut for Missourian’s in 100 years,” Schmitt, R-Glendale, said. “I’d like to see us go a little further. When we can allow businesses to invest in equipment or hire people, when you allow families to keep more of their money, that’s the kind of relief that brings a clear benefit. We need to continue that debate.”

Sen. Schmitt
Sen. Schmitt

With Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback under fire for the sweeping and deep tax cuts enacted in Missouri’s neighboring state, speculation has been rampant that Missouri Republicans won’t seek out more tax cuts in 2015, for fear of public backlash.

“Kansas is an unmitigated disaster,” said Sean Nicholson, Executive Director of Progress Missouri, a left-leaning think tank and activist group. “I know Rex Sinquefield really wants all people he’s financing to carry his flag, but this is lunacy.”

Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Liberty, has been a vocal supporter of tax cut legislation in Missouri for several years. Berry was one of a few lawmakers directly involved in last year’s tax cut legislation, and it was Berry that sponsored 2013’s vetoed tax cut that Republicans failed to override thanks to an internal split among members.

Berry said he believed there was less desire to cut taxes than in previous years, but not because of concerns about political backlash.

“We need a little time to see what happens, because it hasn’t gone into effect yet,” Berry said. “I believe what we’re doing is the correct thing in lowering taxes, but I understand a lot of people disagree. They have their arguments and so do we, so lets look at facts and get a little time so we have the data we need to make our point.”

Berry said that Missourians were clearly politically supportive of tax cuts, but that those policies had dominated legislative discussions in the past several years, and other areas of public policy needed to be addressed. Berry said he expected more tax cut bill debate this year, but doubted anything would “get across the finish line.

Schmitt says that the speculation simply isn’t true.

“I don’t agree that there’s no appetite for more tax cuts,” Schmitt said. “We came off a major victory to override the governor last year and I would point out that no incumbent who voted for that bill lost re-election. The public is solidly supportive of our efforts to lower the tax burden, the proof is in the pudding.”