Senator David Pearce – Capitol Report for the Week of Jan. 25

Pearce - Banner - Capitol Report 2013 - 010313 copy

Resolutions Pass in Senate

This week I have two important issues that I would like to bring to your attention. One of these problems concerns the integrity of our state government, and the other impacts Missouri farm workers who make their livings supporting the state’s largest and richest industry.

The Senate and House have been dealing with a very troubling problem that has resulted from a recent decision made by the governor when he attempted to illegally bypass the State Legislature. Last year, the Missouri Home Care Union reached an agreement with the state board that it could set the hourly pay wage for home health care workers as high as $10.15.

In support of the wage raise, the governor asked the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to enact a rule that would put the raise into effect. This is where the problem lies. In 2008, the General Assembly passed a statute requiring all wage raise proposals to go through the appropriations process in order for them to be vetted by the State Legislature. The governor’s recent decision bypassed this statute, the House and the Senate, and as a result illegally left the State Legislature out of the appropriations process.

This abuse of power was an example of executive action trying to sidestep the Missouri State Legislature and should not be tolerated. As a result, Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 has passed through and moved to the House where it is currently being heard. The resolution will disapprove the final order of rulemaking for the governor’s requested DHSS rule, as it did not go through the appropriate appropriations process. Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 is a necessary act to maintain the legislative process is followed accurately, legally and in a way that involves the state government as a whole.

While the members of the House and Senate do feel compassionate about home health care workers’ wellbeing, action has to be taken to stop this illegal act from compromising the lawmaking system. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules has rejected the new DHSS rule, not because of the wage raise, but because of the way it has been handled.

The second issue I wanted to bring up this week was the State Tax Commission’s (STC) recommendation of a 5 percent tax increase on Missouri farmers and ranchers, and the recent legislative action working to oppose this. Now is the wrong time to raise taxes for our state’s farmers and our number one industry. Missouri farms bring affordable food to our grocery stores and dinner tables, and provide a large amount of income for our state. Senate Concurrent Resolutions 51 and 52 are a combined piece of legislation that has just passed through the Senate to the House, with the goal of disapproving the new STC tax hike recommendation and restructuring the way agricultural land is valued.

The current formula the commission uses to value farm and ranch land does not take into account volatility in the market or environmental factors like flooding and poor farming conditions. Not only do SCRs 51 and 52 disapprove of the new tax rates, they also call for a valuing of land based on its agricultural productivity. Under this regulation, the land’s value would accurately reflect damage caused by unforeseen circumstances. Senate Concurrent Resolutions 51 and 52 are an attempt to protect our state’s largest industry and the working men and women who depend on the land to make a living. The average farmer’s age is 58, and the future of agriculture will depend on younger generations taking up the mantle when older farmers retire. The State Legislature is trying to ensure that they will be able to afford entrance to this market, and can have some sense of stability once they’ve become established. A tax increase right now could prevent both of these things from happening.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.

Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties in the 21st State Senatorial District.