Our Opinion: Familiar issues, changing backdrop and new voices

News Tribune editorial

The year may be new, but many of the legislative priorities for the upcoming session will be familiar.

Although lawmakers will confront many of the same issues, a benefit will be more ground work has been laid, but new challenges have arisen.

Among priorities identified by both legislative leaders and local lawmakers is economic development, including job creation and tax credit reform.

The efficiency and effectiveness of the state’s 61 tax credit programs is a long-standing topic, which became the focal point of a review panel created in 2010 by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The panel’s report and recommendations have been a subject of debate, but little action, through two regular sessions and a special session.

This summer, the governor asked the group to reconvene and update its review.

In a separate but related development, the competitive landscape changed when neighboring Kansas committed to up its game with additional tax incentives.

A December news story reported an insurance company planned to move its Missouri operation in Kansas City about one mile away into Kansas to take advantage of $5 million in incentives.

Tax credit reform is not the only familiar issue lawmakers will face when the regular session begins on Jan. 9. Other priorities and their changing backdrop include:

• Energy policy. Discussion will be renewed after Missouri failed to win initial federal assistance to develop small nuclear reactors at the Callaway plant.

• Education funding. A major question mark will remain until Congress decides how so-called fiscal cliff ramifications will affect federal funding to schools.

• Compensation for state employees. Debate will resume on state salaries — reported as the lowest among the 50 states — but with an extension granted to a legislative panel exploring the issue.

In addition to changing circumstances, the November elections will bring some new voices to discussions, as freshmen legislators take seats on committees and in their respective chambers.

The stage is set for vigorous debate — and, potentially, consequential action — in state government.

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