By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (email@example.com):
(Read Part 1 here)
(Read Part 2 here)
(Read Part 3 here)
Missouri’s State Budget
We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the
Backs of our Children through Education Cuts
Over the last few weeks, we have looked at Missouri’s budget numbers and at the Jefferson City politicians’ willingness to ask our children to shoulder these economic times with cuts to their schools. Yet, even after two years of deep cuts to education and with terrifying forecast numbers coming in, the battle to protect our children’s future educational opportunities is just starting.
Over the past two years Missouri has not fully funded the foundation formula for K-12 education. We failed to fund it by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the foundation formula and state law. This is on top of $60 million over the last three years in cuts to transportation funding, another $37 million cut deleting Missouri’s career ladder program and $10 million in withholds and cuts to early childhood’s Parents as Teachers program.
The cuts were not just to K -12 funding but also to higher education. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges have gone without $306.8 million from just 2010.
While education has seen hundreds of millions in cuts, as I pointed out in last week’s column, tax credits are one area that has seen sky-high increases. Over the last 12 years, tax credits have grown 407.9% to $521 million in 2010 and an estimated $698.4 million in 2011. Now, in the midst of not being able to fund what I believe is our state’s number one priority, education, the Jefferson City politicians want to give away more money in tax credits. They do not believe we have spent enough on them and are asking for even more for their campaign contributors.
Currently legislative leaders are pushing for a special session in order to award new tax credits for a St. Louis development called Aerotropolis. The plan for Aerotropolis is to give out $360 million in entitlement tax credits over 15 years to offset landing fees and build cargo facilities near Lambert Airport in St. Louis with the hopes of creating a hub that would attract international trade from areas like China.
The idea is based on a book by journalist Greg Lindsay who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week “that St. Louis’ plan won’t work.” He continued that “we can’t generate enough cargo traffic to justify a major, long-lasting commitment from any airline, Chinese or otherwise.”
The reason for Lindsay’s skepticism of this becoming an economic engine and instead a waste of your hard earned dollars is for two reasons. First, St. Louis is late to the game as airports in the Midwest, such as Chicago and Memphis have already established the cargo capacity and trade relations for what supporters say these giveaways will create. Second, St. Louis has the highest landing fees among the Midwest airports they would be competing against (as the chart to the left shows).
With Lambert Airport being $1.4 billion in debt, St. Louis wants state tax payers to bail them out of debt by offsetting their high tax to land at the airport. In my opinion, this bailout is just as wasteful as the $100 million in tax credits passed in last year’s special session for Ford, which have yet to create one new job. Developers know this will not be a financial success, otherwise they would move forward with Aerotropolis without government subsidies.
The special interests will take your money and add it to their wallets if this passes as proposed. The Jefferson City politicians again have decided it is time to give more of your hard earned money to their campaign contributors and education will suffer if we don’t stop them.
In the Senate this past legislative session, we passed needed reforms to tax credits and protected education in Missouri. Provisions passed in HB 116 would have capped the amount of tax credits that can be issued each year, such as for the ballooned low-income housing and historic preservation. Renters, who were not paying property tax, would have no longer received a property tax credit, saving the state $57 million dollars a year. New tax credits, like the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), would have been, as I have been calling for, subject to appropriations. And several performance-based credits were consolidated so we can tangibly see the outcomes of our investment while eliminating those tax credits that were not providing a return on investment to the state. The reforms in HB 116 would have saved Missouri taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next 15 years. House leaders though were more focused on their next election; protecting their campaign contributors and the special interests and killed these common sense reforms. They prevented this sweeping reform bill from being passed and now want more new tax credits and less reform.
Cuts to education jeopardize our children’s future. Missouri’s priority should not be in rewarding campaign contributing special interests, but should instead be the full funding of all aspects of education. That is why I oppose a special session that creates new tax credits without meaningful reforms.
There are 18,000,000 Sq Ft of unused warehouse space near the St. Louis airport. Yet, certain Missouri legislators and Governor Jay Nixon want to give away $360,000,000 of your tax dollars to build more unnecessary warehouse space.
Contact your Senator and Representative today to tell them that you are firmly against this boondoggle.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.