Missouri’s business organizations unveil their legislative proposals

A coalition of the state’s major business organizations announced a six-part package they urged the legislature to pass.

Rather than tax breaks for economic development and job creation, the proposals largely focus on non-tax issues that Missouri Chamber of Commerce President Dan Mehan would not cost the state lost tax revenue.

“This is about employers and employers’ ability to compete,” Mehan said. “This came from employers, it’s from the ground up. These are things we reached consensus on. They don’t cost the state money.”

Included in the business groups’ recommendations is changing the voter-approved minimum wage law that provides automatic increases. The business coalition proposed capping those increases so the state’s minimum wage does not exceed the federal level.

They also called for imposing limits on liability lawsuits against businesses.

The one tax issue proposed by the business coalition would be to cap and eventually phase out the corporate franchise tax.

Legislative staff have estimated the state collects more than $70 million per year in the franchise tax.

Not included in the package is “right to work” legislation that would prohibit contracts that require an employee join a union or pay union dues. Mehan said the coalition was divided on that issue.

Republican legislative leaders previously had said that economic development and job growth would be the top priority issues for the 2011 legislative session.

The incoming Senate president pro tem, Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said he thought “right to work” should be included in an economic package from the legislature, although he acknowledged it would face tough opposition and a potential filibuster in the Senate.

The Senate Democratic floor leader, Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, criticized the business coalition’s package for not including reductions in tax credits to business and special interests that cost the state about $500 million per year.

“What’s more important about this is list is what’s not on this list,” Callahan said. Late last year, a panel appointed by the governor recommended several tax credit changes including cutting nearly in half the cap on the historic preservation tax credit program that provides economic incentives for development and restoration of historic buildings.

Efforts to cut tax credits have deeply divided Republicans in the state Senate and have been met a solid wall of opposition from Republican leaders in the House.

– Missouri Digital News