JEFFERSON CITY — In a sign he believes Democratic votes may be needed to get an income tax cut across the finish line, Gov. Mike Parson met with members of the Senate Minority Party on Tuesday.
The session, which lasted nearly an hour, marked the final meeting between Parson and various groups of lawmakers in his summer-long bid to persuade them to accelerate a proposed cut in state income tax rates during a special session still scheduled this fall.
Until Tuesday, however, those meetings were held exclusively with Republicans, who control supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said no deals had been made and no promises had been made.
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“We’re excited to be included in the discussion,” said Rizzo.
Though Democrats have joined Republicans in voting for earlier tax cuts and rebates, Rizzo said the latest release comes as state and local government operations falter amid labor shortages.
There are long waiting times for Medicaid applicants. School bus routes in St. Louis were canceled due to driver shortages. And more school districts, including Rizzo’s home district of Independence, are considering four-day school weeks.
“We don’t want to bite our noses off to annoy our face,” Rizzo said. “We’re still catching up to stay competitive in these areas.”
Parson has urged lawmakers to return to the Capitol in the coming weeks to lower the state’s current income tax rate to 4.8% from the current 5.4%, saying the state’s flush funds offer an opportunity to ease the tax burden on Missourians to reduce.
Income taxes are the state’s largest source of revenue at approximately $10 billion per year.
The lobbying comes as the Missouri Senate was mired in a fight between GOP leaders and a breakaway faction of Republicans who, until Monday, had called themselves the “Conservative Caucus.”
The group turned the Senate into a parliamentary quagmire over issues such as abortion, transgender athletes, vaccination regulations and other culture-war issues during the spring legislature.
But on Monday, Separatist leader Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, said the group would disband after four caucus-backed candidates won the Aug. 2 primary.
The projected breakdown of the 34-seat Senate when it returns in January is expected to include 15 senators aligned with the GOP leaders, nine from the conservative faction and 10 Democrats.
“Going forward, we don’t have to defend ourselves when it comes to passing good legislation — we believe the class of Republican candidates vying to fill vacant and existing seats in the Missouri Senate would demand the same results that the we’ve been striving for over the past four years.” Eigel in a press release.
“Our hope is that our fellow Republicans, with mandates from the Republicans who voted in this recent primary, are willing to refocus on enacting conservative Republican policies with the supermajorities in place in Jefferson City,” Eigel said.
Senator Brian Williams, D-University City, said Parson likely spoke to Democrats because he knows his proposal will have a difficult time getting through the upper chamber.
“The governor is trying to have a conversation and get everyone on the same page,” Williams said. “Divisive factions in the Republican caucus will be the determining factor in the outcome of the special session. History has shown us that Republicans are not very serious about moving our state forward.”
Meanwhile, the Governor’s Office of the Budget announced that revenue from general net income for the fiscal year ended June 30 increased 14.6% from $11.24 billion last year to $12.88 billion this year have risen.
Income tax revenue increased 11.8% for the year, from $8.92 billion last year to $9.97 billion this year.
“Now is the time to give back to working Missourians and give back some of their hard-earned dollars!” Parson tweeted last week after meeting with House Republicans.
He will continue lobbying Wednesday when he meets with farm groups at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia to discuss a separate proposal to extend a series of tax breaks designed to benefit agriculture.
In addition to lowering the tax rate, Parson plans to raise the standard deduction to $16,000 for individual applicants and $32,000 for joint applicants.
That would mean that a taxpayer earning $16,000 or less would owe no state income tax. A married couple with a non-working spouse earning $32,000 or less would also not owe state income tax.
The current standard deduction for single applicants is $12,950 and $25,900 for joint applicants.
An announcement outlining the timetable for the meeting is expected early next week.