Legislative Column for the Week of Monday, May 5, 2014
Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto,
Enacting Broad-Based Tax Relief for Missouri

Legislative News

This week, the Missouri Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of a broad-based tax cut bill designed to encourage economic growth in the state. This is the first time in a nearly a 100 years that Missourians have been given significant tax relief. It’s truly historic, and long overdue.

Under the legislation, the maximum tax rate on personal income is reduced by 0.5 percent over a period of years beginning in 2017; allows an individual income tax deduction for employers who claim business income on their personal taxes; grants a $500 deduction for individuals who earn less than $20,000 a year; and requires tax brackets for individual income to be adjusted annually for inflation.

Most importantly, none of these reductions of deductions go into effect unless triggers within the bill are met. Revenue collections must increase by $150 million more than the highest amount from the last three years, and the cuts don’t go into effect until 2017 to allow time for full funding of the school foundation formula, a goal of both the Legislature and the governor.

The bill will allow Missouri citizens and businesses to keep more of their hard-earned income. That money can then be reinvested in our economy through consumer spending and business expansion and job creation. The legislation goes far in creating an economic environment in our state conducive to long-term growth and prosperity.

The General Assembly also approved the $26.4 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2015 on Thursday this week. The final spending plan invests heavily in our education system, one of my top priorities. The budget includes a $115 million increase to the already $3.1 billion in state aid given to K-12 schools. However, if the governor’s somewhat optimistic revenue projections hold true, that number could increase to $278 million.

We also appropriated a $43 million increase to higher education institutions for performance based funding; a 1 percent raise for all state employees, currently the worst paid in the nation; and money to fund a long-term bonding plan to rebuild the Fulton State Hospital, which was originally built in 1851 and is literally falling apart.

The final budget keeps with the fiscally conservative principles that have allowed our state to weather some of the worst economic times in decades. It funds the most important state services, invests heavily in the education of our future, and lives within Missouri’s means.

The Senate debated a number of other measures this week, including legislation that would allow employees to choose whether or not union dues are automatically removed from their paychecks. House Bill 1617 requires certain labor unions to get authorization to used dues and fees to make political contributions and withhold earnings from paychecks.

The legislation is ultimately about giving workers the choice of whether or not they join a union, and what those dues will be used for. The legislation in no way prevents employees from joining unions. It just finally gives them a choice of whether or not to have dues and fees taken from their paycheck, a choice many employees in union-heavy industries aren’t given. 

Additionally, the Missouri Senate briefly discussed House Joint Resolution 90, which would establish an early voting period for all elections except local, special district and municipal elections. The legislation would expand accessibility for voters and hopefully encourage more turn-out in our elections. A strong democracy is built on citizen involvement. Allowing voters to cast ballots early, at their convenience, is a way to increase that.

District News

Most consumers today own both a credit card and a debit card— and use them interchangeably.  However, did you realize one offers more consumer protections than the other? 

Here is a quick overview of the differences in consumer protections:

  • Credit Cards

    Under federal law, liability for unauthorized use of a credit card tops out at $50. Card owners are not responsible for any unauthorized charges if the card is reported lost or stolen before the credit card is used, or only the card number is stolen (but not the actual card).
  • Debit Cards

    On the other hand, responsibility for unauthorized use of a debit card depends on when it’s reported.  For example, report the card missing before someone else uses it, and the card owner is not responsible for unauthorized transactions.  Report unauthorized use within two business days and the maximum loss is $50. More than two business days go by then it is up to $500.  If it takes more than 60 days to report the card missing/stolen, the card owner may be responsible for the full transaction amount.

Here are four scenarios, according to the Better Business Bureau, for when to choose credit instead of debit:

  • Shopping Online

    Have you ever purchased an item online but didn’t receive it?  This happens more than you think.  Federal regulations generally require an item to be delivered within 30 days.  Using a debit card makes a refund more difficult.  Using a credit card allows you to dispute the charge, if it is more than $50, up to 60 days from the purchase date and gives you a better chance of getting your money back.

  • Paying Deposits Upfront

    Contracts for home improvement projects or subscription services often require down payments.  Scammers will try to take these deposits and disappear, so using a credit card allows you to recoup those lost funds.

  • Setting Up Automatic Payments

    Service providers such as gyms, cell phone companies and cable providers offer consumers the option of setting up automatic deductions from their account. The goal is to never forget to make a payment.  However, billing mistakes can happen, causing you to pay more.  Instead of money coming directly from your bank account with a debit card, you can catch the mistake on your credit card statement without money ever leaving your account.
  • Planning Travel Arrangements

    People often book hotels and/or rental cars well in advance, but these companies can place holds on your account for hundreds of dollars as a security deposit. If you use a debit card, this money is taken out of your account immediately. Using a credit card, however, can make this additional charge unnoticeable for at least 30 days and gives you time to cancel if travel plans change.