Mar 9, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update

HOUSE REPUBLICANS REJECT MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE

After complaining that a St. Louis ordinance that ultimately would raise the citywide minimum wage to $11 an hour is inappropriate because the minimum wage should be set at the state level, House Republicans on March 8 rejected a proposal to increase the statewide minimum wage to $11 an hour as of 2020. The wage proposal fell on a near party-line vote 108-45, with Democrats in support and all but one Republican opposed.

Democrats proposed the statewide wage increase as an amendment to another measure, House Bill 1194, that seeks to block implementation of a St. Louis minimum wage ordinance. City officials enacted the ordinance in 2015, but it had been tied up in litigation until a unanimous Missouri Supreme Court upheld it on Feb. 28.

Also in 2015, the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a legislation prohibiting cities from having local minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum. However, that legislation included a grandfather clause allowing for higher local wage ordinances in effect as of Aug. 28, 2015, which St. Louis’ was.

HB 1194 would eliminate the grandfather clause, thus invalidating the St. Louis ordinance. The House on March 9 voted 111-45 to send the bill to the Senate for further debate.

 

BUDGET PANEL PROPOSES ENDING RENTER’S TAX CREDIT

The House Budget Committee on March 7 took the first steps toward eliminating the “circuit-breaker” tax credit for low-income renters who are elderly or disabled. The roughly $60 million in savings from eliminating the credit be used to preserve funding for nursing home and in-home care services for the disabled, which Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has proposed cutting back.

The circuit breaker tax credit provides property tax relief to low-income elderly or disabled Missourians. Republicans say that only homeowners should qualify for the credit since renters don’t directly pay property taxes on their homes. Democrats argue that it is appropriate to extend the credit to renters, as it has been for more than 40 years, because landlords pass on the cost of their property taxes to renters. The average renter’s credit is about $500 a year.

Democrats further argue that with the hundreds of millions of dollars in special interest tax cuts the legislature has approved in recent years, a relatively modest tax break for the elderly and disabled isn’t the first place lawmakers should turn to for savings. Another committee must hear the bill before it can advance to the full House for debate.

 

GREITENS TEAM USES NON-PROFIT TO AVOID DISCLOSURE

Operatives connected to Republican Gov. Eric Greitens have established a non-profit organization called A New Missouri Inc. to advocate for the governor’s agenda and pay for some of his expenses, The Kansas City Star reported on March 8. As a non-profit, A New Missouri Inc. doesn’t have to disclose its donors, making it impossible for the public to know if individuals, companies or interest groups with business before the state are making contributions in order to curry favor with the administration.

The Star further reported that the non-profit will coordinate directly with the governor’s office and Greitens’ campaign committee. In some cases, the various arms of the Greitens organization will share staff, with at least one person, Austin Chambers, the governor’s senior adviser, working for all three, an arrangement that could blur legal and ethical lines.

Greitens focused his campaign for office on vows to fight corruption and the influence of lobbyists and campaign donors in Jefferson City. However, Greitens has been criticized for not practicing what he preached, taking nearly $2 million in untraceable “dark money” campaign contributions and refusing to disclose how much donors gave to fund in inaugural ball or who is paying for his plane travels while on official business.