Our Opinion: Missourians escape added fees, taxes

A major theme of the legislative session that ended Friday was a reluctance to add to the financial burden of Missourians.

Considering the Republican control of both the House and Senate, this outcome might be expected.

And yet, some GOP lawmakers — including state Sen. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City — were among the champions of a transportation sales tax and an infrastructure surcharge for some utility providers.

A look at money issues that failed to cross the finish line before Friday’s deadline includes:

• A 10-year, 1-cent statewide sales tax for transportation was consigned to defeat in the final week of the session after senators participated in a filibuster; they had not done when the issue first passed the Senate in March.

• A proposal to permit three-investor owned electric utilities, including Ameren Missouri, to add a surcharge to customers’ bills to pay for infrastructure improvements, before the Public Service Commission holds a full rate case.

• A $1.2 billion bond issue to finance projects at higher education facilities, mental health buildings, the Capitol, state parks and local public school districts.

The Capitol’s biggest repair needs and planning for a new Fulton State Hospital, however, were included in a one-time, capital improvements measure made possible by an unanticipated upswing in state revenues.

The plan, which awaits action by the governor, would channel $50 million for Capitol repairs, $13 million to design a replacement for the mental hospital in Fulton and $38 million for a new state office building at the Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment site.

The most significant change in the tax structure was a Republican priority to cut income taxes. The tax cut also is expected to reduce state revenues — a decrease that may prompt a veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Although the governor and lawmakers opened the session with an arsenal of potential taxes and fees, Missourians largely dodged the fusillade of new financial obligations.

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