I don’t like to let too many folks back home know about my clairvoyant abilities; you understand, I get a lot of requests for lotto numbers, football scores, etc. However, I decided back in March to let you guys in on my special ability, and in this column, I let you in on the future on how the Governor’s Commission on Raising Taxes would turn out.
I predicted that they would end the targeted tax cuts for economic development that President Ronald Reagan and Governor John Ashcroft established, and their desire to get their hands on more money to expand Medicaid or add an eighth floor to the Truman Building or whatever would be a boom for bureaucrats and a knife in the back to rural Missourah.
Well, I got a draft of the commission’s report, and boy howdy, I was spot on. I mean, in the history of being right, I was righter than right.
Now you may say that an inner city governor establishing a commission led by a New York City banker and filled with bureaucrats and people that the Governor himself has called corrupt (and 3rd graders) was bound to stick it to rural Missouri…
Well, you’d be right, but I called it in March and you didn’t, so lay off.
Being white trash, it’s in my DNA to gloat and rub it in and be the type of guy to say I told you so, but after a few days of patting myself on the back, I began to wonder how we got here.
During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan’s Housing and Urban Development Director Jack Kemp created a public-private partnership model that would bring in private developers to the housing market with a tax credit model.
The program he developed was the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program. Under President Reagan, it was implemented and in some states, conservative governors like John Ashcroft quickly encouraged its usage in the state and created a state program to work alongside it.
Over the years, the LIHTC program has been one of the economic development successes in the state. Now, of course, as rural Missourah began benefitting from the program, there was no shortage of inner city politicians lining up with some fancy reports from greedy bankers to tell folks how rural Missourah was only really a part of the state on the map, and not meant to actually spend real money in.
Several commissions have been established over the years that were real big doin’s. Governor Matt Blunt and Governor Jay Nixon established commissions to study things. The big inner city bankers came in and lectured the commissions and they ignored them – as has been a tradition in the state.
This commission was different than its predecessors. For one, it didn’t even pretend to be non-partisan, as only Republicans were asked to serve on it. Two, even among Republicans, only those suspected to dutifully nod their heads and vote “yeeeesss” were asked to join. Three, unlike the previous commissions, the ones picked to serve on this one knew the fix was in and didn’t even bother showing up to most of the meetings. Four the unprecedented and questionably legal use of special sessions question the credibility of the entire fiasco.
The tax increase commission attendance rate was right about the same level as Republicans’ attendance as the House Urban Affairs committee.
It reminds me of the last time rural Missouri was sold a pig in a poke: the 15-year highway plan.
Back in the early 90’s, Governor Ashcroft crafted a plan to ask Missourians to slightly raise taxes and build a world class highway system that would connect every town of 2,000 people with a four-lane highway. It was a glorious plan.
As you might imagine, the inner city politicians hated that fact that money they felt they were entitled to was being spent on rural Missourah roads. Eventually, a St. Louis lawyer named Lee Kling got ahold of the highway commission and announced that “Too bad suckers, no roads for you”…Of course, they kept the money.
It took 15 years for MODOT to live it down and while today they are probably the best functioning department in the state, it was a black eye on all of state government.
Well, be on alert: the inner city politicians and big city bankers have the same designs on the LIHTC program that they had on the 15-year-plan. Screw rural Missourah… but keep the money.
You might wonder why anyone would sign off on this commission report. I mean, they were basically picked because they were the most likely to be stooges and didn’t even show up. Well, I’ll give you my two cents.
A lot of the heat on this issue dates back to the end of the 2012 primary elections. Senator Kraus and Koenig will undoubtedly sign the document. You’re probably saying “Wait a minute, Representative Kraus had no problem standing up to the governor or leadership.”
Well, my crystal ball is saying it won’t be Representative Kraus, but Senator Kraus who shows up to the meeting.
Look, don’t get too rough on these guys, a higher authority than a state senator has given the order, a higher authority than the Governor has issued the command, what are they supposed to do?
Senator Dan Hegeman is a tremendous statesman who was had several LIHTC projects in his rural north Missouri district, but he likely goes along to get along and signs, but doesn’t go around gloating about it. However, heads up if he is tapped to carry the bill in the Senate.
You can call former Senators John Lamping and Jason Crowell a lot of things, but you can’t call them hypocrites. They were selected for a reason.
However, it will be interesting to watch Senator Lamping present the commission’s recommendations to raise taxes for the greater good. It reminds me of the final week of the 2013 session.
Senator Kehoe had done something no one does in modern politics: attempt to solve a problem like an adult. He and Senator Dempsey had put together a funding package for MoDOT. There was a Senate caucus (oxymoron I know) and everyone seemed willing to let the bill move to a vote. However, as the bill was brought up it was Senator Lamping who immediately opened a filibuster to kill the bill. You have to wonder what’s going in the mind of the Senator from Cole today.
The bureaucrats will sign it. Don’t blame the Director of Revenue – he was handed this dumpster fire the first day on the job and has made a statesman’s effort to keep it together. What exactly were you expecting when the Governor’s staff says in closed session that, “eliminating these programs are the Governor’s top priority”?
The representatives you ask?
Well, Representative Holly Rehder is being backed heavily for speaker by the Governor and those pushing the commission’s end goals, so she is in a tough spot here.
Meanwhile, Representative Barnes understands the public policy perhaps better than anyone. Life is complicated, and the complex situation he is currently in may lead him to signing it, but it’s likely with shrugged shoulders. If someone is going to call a spade a spade here, it will be the Gentleman from Cole.
The person in the most awkward spot is Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr. It’s very likely that he will not agree with the document he is told to sign. He could stand up here, but leadership races are tricky. If he signs this, he will have to find some way to assure people that the House’s top priority for the 2019 session won’t be limiting the Secretary of State to two terms, or whatever the east coast consultants say polls well then.
My hillbilly crystal ball predicts that they all sign the report that stabs rural Missourah in the back, there is a reason why this group was picked, after all.
The next move will lead to the most questions:
Will there be a special session on raising taxes?
Will the Governor make recess appointments to attack LIHTC in rural Missourah like placing Lee Kling on the highway commission attack the 15-year plan?
Will Senator Richard prove once again to be the last defender of rural Missourah?
Will the courage caucus in the Senate demand their investigation moving forward before allowing anything else to be taken up in special session?
Will this simple hillbilly turn his psychic powers to picking horse races?
Isn’t it great to live in Missourah.
Scott Faughn is the publisher of The Missouri Times, owner of the Clayton Times in Clayton, Mo; SEMO Times in Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and host of the only statewide political television show, This Week in Missouri Politics.