Audrey Spalding
Today, the Missouri House of Representatives approved a $24 billion state budget. What remains to be seen is whether that budget will pass the Senate.

Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Dist. 27) made waves when he spoke out on Wednesday against gimmicks that legislators are using to avoid tough budgetary decisions. The Columbia Missourian reports that Crowell blocked a vote that would extend the amount of time the legislature has to replenish the state's "rainy day fund."

Crowell also argued that the proposed state budget counts on uncertain sources of revenue ($70 million that is estimated to be received from delinquent taxpayers), and one-time sources of funding (a $40 million settlement that the state has not yet received).

In a very passionate speech, Crowell stressed the need for tax credit reform, something he has called for repeatedly. Crowell has sponsored several bills to subject tax credits to the appropriations process. Tax credits currently are not subject to appropriations, meaning that tax credit money (which has consistently been more than $500 million in recent years), comes straight out of state coffers, without consideration of whether the state can afford the expense.

During the hearing, Crowell asked Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Dist. 19), the budget chairman,  "When are you going to pick Mizzou over Jeff Smith? That's what this is all about, Senator."

Crowell was referring to a developer who the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board has called out for benefiting greatly from the state's Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and alluding to the cuts that have been made to state higher education. These are the kinds of trade-offs that could be considered if tax credits were subject to appropriations; instead, legislators continue to passively give priority to tax credits.

Indeed, St. Louis Public Radio reports that Crowell promised to filibuster uses of one-time funding unless serious overhauls of the tax credit system, prison spending, and state pensions are considered.

Good luck.

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Audrey Spalding