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Senate tax plan moves forward, Greitens’ version stalled


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Bill Eigel can breathe a short sigh of relief as the Senate Ways and Means committee voted to pass his tax reform legislation out of committee Tuesday morning.

The Republican from St. Charles County, along with Sen. Andrew Koenig in their second year as state senators, endeavored to tackle the large issue of tax reform, a heavy lift for any senator in Missouri’s upper chamber.

“Obviously, I’m thrilled to see this moving forward, we all put a lot of work into this,” Eigel said following the vote. “We knew it was going to be a long process, but it’s certainly encouraging to see it pass out of committee today.”

But after 18 drafts and revisions and re-working the bill to a compromised Senate plan – not to mention several delayed votes, due to continued negotiations and a filibuster – the senators saw their legislation finally jump the first hurdle with a 5-2 vote on Tuesday morning.

Sen. Bill Eigel address members of the Senate Ways and Means committee regarding his tax reform legislation. (Benjamin Peters/The Missouri Times)

“None of us got everything that we wanted, and we will continue to seek the Governor’s input on this,” Eigel told the committee. “But I have said from the very beginning that I wanted the product that would come before this committee, and ultimately before the Senate, to be a Senate plan, a plan that the Senate body will want to move forward as something that is good for the state.”

Speaking before the committee, Eigel explained that the current substitute – worth an estimated $630 million- included negotiated language that sought to be more revenue-neutral. Some of the new changes included in the 421-page document would leave the bottom three tax brackets in place, while reducing the cut to the top rate, scaling it back from 4.8 to 5.25 percent.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed filed an amendment to the bill, placing the earned income tax credit (EITC) back in the language, which was accepted with a voice vote.

Some had speculated about whether the Senate version of tax reform legislation or that of Gov. Eric Greitens would be the bus under which reform would travel forward in the Senate, but with Tuesday’s vote, it’s clear that the Senate intends to take a hard look at the so-called “Senate plan” rather than that of the Republican Governor.

And while the Senate version has now been redrawn to include pieces from Eigel, Koenig, and the Governor’s plans, one particular item is a concern for some.

While inquiring about the bill, Sen. John Rizzo asked Eigel if they had heard anything from the executive branch about whether a proposed six-cent increase to the fuel tax would lead to a veto from the Governor. Greitens has made it clear he does not support any increase to the state’s fuel tax, but Eigel says he believes the Governor’s commitment to tax reform will trump his dislike of the fuel tax increase.

“We have had a discussion about that, and I do know there is a disagreement on that issue, but I think that when we set out to create this tax package, we were trying to address a lot of big items that were facing our state,” Eigel said. “

“I just don’t want to waste your time,” Rizzo said. “I just hate to see us do all of this work again and him not be as forthright with his own party and it gets put on his desk and vetoed.”

“The fate of the fuel tax will ultimately be up to the Senate,” Eigel replied.

Senators Nasheed and Rizzo cast the two opposing votes, but Rizzo made it clear that he wasn’t necessarily a no vote later on in the process.

“I will probably be a no on the bill today, but don’t count me out,” Rizzo said. “I’m going to continue to watch how the bill evolves.”

As for the Governor’s plan, Eigel says they have not seen it in committee, and that he personally does not expect it to move any further, as the intent is to push forward with a Senate product.

“We wanted one bill to move forward, and I think we have it,” he said.

The bill is SB 617.