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County commissioners concerned about proposed state tax giveback
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (April 27, 2009) — While Missouri legislators are considering giving $1 billion worth of federal stimulus money back to taxpayers in the form of tax cuts, Pulaski County Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall, D-Waynesville, said Monday he didn’t think that’s a good idea.

Ransdall, who prior to his election as presiding commissioner had served in the Missouri House of Representatives and chaired its budget committee until Republicans took control of the chamber, read details out of a legislative report prepared for the County Commissioners Association of Missouri and questioned whether the plan advocated by House Republicans is legal.

According to the report, a plan filed by the House Budget Committee chairman would give the average Missouri family a rebate of about $25 per month, which the report compared to “a fast food meal for a family of four.”

Ransdall questioned that plan.

“If you read up at the top of there, Missouri is at significant risk of losing federal funds,” Ransdall said. “There’s language in there that says you can’t do that; you have to use it for health care, schools or something.”

Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink, R-Crocker, said when he first heard about the federal stimulus plan, he knew there would be concerns and said the state proposal to give $1 billion back to taxpayers has its own problems.

“When you start giving a billion away, you can quarrel about how you are giving it away, but they are still giving it away. Ain’t nothing free, I figured that out years ago,” Zweerink said.

The legislative report said the plan carries substantial risk.

“Congress specifically sent the economic recovery funds to the states in order to prevent cuts in critical services including health care, education, transportation and infrastructure during this difficult economic time. Without the use of this funding, Missouri will be facing a significant budget shortfall that could require large cuts to an array of services,” according to the report. “If lawmakers pursue this tax cut concept, Missouri will also be at risk of losing a significant portion of the federal dollars, because none of the major streams of federal money are actually permitted to be spent on tax cuts. Not one other state is considering this type of tax cut because it would place an increased burden on future budget years, deepening the budget shortfall in Missouri, and could lead to greater fiscal problems for the state.”

Even if the proposal passes the House of Representatives, it would still have to be adopted by the State Senate and any differences between the two budget bills would be worked out in a conference committee.

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