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The governor gets his tax cut for the second year in a row

May 13, 1998
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Hop into the tax-cut time machine: It was one year ago this Friday that Gov. Mel Carnahan fumed Missourians were "victims of personal agendas" when legislators only passed one of his priority bills.

That bill happened to be the largest tax cut in Missouri history, chopping three cents off the state's food tax for a projected reduction of $250 million.

Back to the present: Though the temperature outside the Capitol building reached almost 90 degrees Wednesday afternoon, the mood projected from the governor's office has been measuredly cooler. Only meth legislation remains undealt with the on the governor's wish list.

Near the top of that list was another major tax cut, which flew through the House Wednesday morning after doing the same in the Senate on Tuesday. This time, Missourians will save $90 million.

House Majority Leader Gracia Backer, D-New Bloomfield, discussed the House's bout of expediency in light of the chamber's reguest for $190 million in cuts last week.

"I think it was good bipartisan effort once again," she said. "The most important thing to understand is that the state now has the money to make these kinds of deductions... I think it benefits everybody."

The bill essentially has three provisions:

* Missourians will be able to claim three times the current amount for each dependent on their tax returns, up to $1,200, starting with this year's income taxes. The dependent deduction has been set at $400 since the mid-1940's.

* Taxpayers will be able to deduct an additional $1,000 for each elderly dependent. The governor, who supported his father for several years, has been pushing for such a deduction since 1996.

* More elderly taxpayers will be eligible for the "circuit breaker" property tax credit. Proponents have said the provision is necessary beacuse of the skyrocketing expenses, mostly medical, that senior citizens currently have to pay.

The tax-cut package will join child care on the governor's 1998 victory tally, while expanded Medicaid for kids will likely be approved by the House Thursday morning.

Tougher penalties for meth is the only remaining question mark among Carnahan's top priorities. In contrast to last year's final week, the governor's office is optimistic, according to Chief of Staff Brad Ketcher.

"Anti-meth legislation will pass," he said.