In 2014, Republican’s in the State legislature overrode the veto of the Democratic Governor and instituted tax cuts that have amounted to nearly an annual billion dollar loss in the State’s revenue:
The Missouri House acted quickly Tuesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a tax-cut bill that is estimated to cut the state’s revenue by about $620 million a year when fully implemented.
They were warned at the time that this tax cut would leave the State with structural deficits that would make it nearly impossible for the State to pay for things like needed repairs to infrastructure:
“State revenue needs to grow by around $250 million each year just to keep up with current services,” said the group’s executive director, Amy Blouin. “Moreover, because the trigger fails to account for already depleted services, recession-era cuts will become Missouri’s new normal. That will make it even harder for us to compete as other states invest in their infrastructure and education needs. SB 509’s triggers would have even allowed tax cuts to go into effect during the midst of the last recession.”
The Republicans ignored the warnings, instead falling back on the oft-repeated lie by supporters of Trickle Down Economics that tax cuts will end up increasing tax revenues, even though that has literally never happened:
“In this economy … I would normally be wary of a tax cut at this time, were it not for the fail-safes and triggers that require at least $150 million in revenue growth for these tax cuts to take effect,” said Jeff Grisamore, R-Lee’s Summit. “The goal of this bill is to put more money in the pocket(s) of individual taxpayers and small businesses that are the engine of our state economy, that create jobs, and provide increased revenues for our state.”
Two years later, tax cuts, as expected by anyone who has seen this movie before, did not increase tax revenues as promised by the Republicans. Instead, tax revenues came in much lower than forecast, and budget cuts had to be made:
Since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, Nixon has cut $201 million from the state’s spending blueprint in response to the lagging revenues and attempts by the GOP-controlled Legislature to provide tax incentives to various businesses.
Although sales and income taxes have been growing at a healthy rate, corporate taxes have fallen off dramatically. He said businesses are using accounting maneuvers to reduce their tax bills and warned the Legislature to be cautious in doling out tax incentives to businesses.
So, four years later, what has been the result for Missouri infrastructure? You can probably guess:
In the Association’s report, Missouri ranked fourth in the nation in the total number of structurally deficient bridges with more than 3,000 state, county and city bridges, which is about 13 percent of the state’s total.
Missouri lawmakers have struggled to find a way to pay for repairs along thousands of miles of highways and bridges, and it’s unclear if that might change in the near future.
What did Missouri Republicans try to do to make up for the lost transportation funding that resulted from their tax cuts for the rich? They tried to make everyone else pay for it, in the form of an increase to the gas tax:
Proponents, which included state lawmakers from both major parties, Gov. Mike Parson, several local, state and even national groups such as the Missouri State Troopers Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Missouri Farm Bureau, the Missouri Trucking Association, the Missouri Municipal League, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Missouri Association of Counties had said the state’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and that Prop D would have helped raise money for maintenance and upgrades.
Missouri voters decided they didn’t want to pay for the tax breaks that went to the rich. And, really, why should they?
On Tuesday, the measure, which would have increased the state’s gas tax by 10 cents over a period of four years, was defeated with 54 percent of voters opposing it.
Now, Missouri Republicans are throwing up their arms as if there are no other alternatives besides taxing the poor and middle class to pay for the tax breaks they gave to the rich:
“At some point, the roads are going to fall apart or we’re going to miss opportunities to complete projects that will help us compete economically,” said state Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Or we’re going to have to change the way we fund our highways, (a way) that’s not immune to inflation. The expectation that the roads be maintained is going to have to change at some point if we don’t do something different.”
As for other ways to raise revenues for infrastructure, the only possibility Fitzpatrick said that seemed even somewhat feasible was a state sales tax on internet purchases. He said he didn’t believe the “political will” exists in Jefferson City to create toll roads, and that turning control of lettered highways over to county governments may not even be legal.
Missouri, there is an available alternative to a gas tax or sales tax to pay for roads: repeal the tax breaks that Republicans gave to the rich which has caused the budget shortfall in the first place. But first, you might have to vote out the Republican politicians who are trying to make the poor and middle class pay instead.