Lawmakers introduce tax breaks while Missouri budget sits in surplus
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Your weekly grocery trip could be a little cheaper, 1% cheaper to be exact if a bill currently in the Missouri Senate passes.
The Missouri budget sits with a $6 billion surplus after the state received federal pandemic relief funds. Now, lawmakers are proposing ways to take advantage of those funds through tax cuts.
Several tax cut bills were heard in a Senate committee Monday afternoon. The three bills, all introduced by Republicans, address different areas of taxes: one income tax, one property tax and one sales tax on food. They all aim to reduce taxes.
Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold) introduced a bill that would eliminate the 1.225% state sales tax on groceries. Coleman said it would save the average family of four around $87 a year.
"Missouri is one of only 8 states currently that's taxing grocery items," Coleman said.
Around a dozen people came to testify in favor of the bill. One woman passionately said, "I've been that single mom who went hungry to feed her kids."
There are many food-insecure people in central Missouri. Heather Hargrove with Feeding Missouri said the Central Missouri Food Bank is helping 15,000 more people than last year.
"We have many hardworking Missourians who are really just trying to make ends meet," Hargrove said.
This is one tax cut bill even Democratic lawmakers are behind.
"Legislation that's focused on, for example, food, feminine hygiene products, things like that, I think those are reasonable taxes that we could exempt," said Sen. Steve Roberts (D-St. Louis).
One lawmaker did push back on this bill during the hearing, saying that people may not even notice the difference of paying only 1 percent less on their groceries.
Last year, Gov. Mike Parson called a special session to reduce income taxes and extend agricultural tax credits. Parson said it was time since the state budget had a surplus.
The governor's tax cut is expected to cost the state around $1 billion, according to lawmakers' estimates. The Missouri Budget Project estimated a family with a $52,000 yearly income will see about $5.50 per month in tax savings.
At the beginning of this legislative session, several lawmakers said they want to continue those cuts, and now some are taking action on those promises.
"We are well suited financially to be leaders in this country economically and fiscally. And I believe we're going to continue to move forward in the right direction. But to do that, we have to be fiscally responsible as well. And that entails how we divvy up the five or 6 billion as well as try to keep some money in taxpayers' pockets," House Speaker Rep. Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis) said earlier in this session, which began last month.
However, Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said the money should be invested into Missouri.
"Of course, a tax cut sounds great," Quade said. "It's a one-time thing. What we need to be doing as a legislature is looking at, 'what investments can we make for the long haul?'"