The Chamber worked tirelessly throughout the session talking with representatives and senators about the priorities of the Chamber and the importance of the Columbia business community to the state’s economy. Those relationships and the education that occurred during the session proved to be beneficial because there were several bills passed that strengthened business in Columbia.
Moving Education Forward
- House Bill 1665 sponsored by Rep. Kathy Swan, creates a visiting scholar certificate which will allow business professionals who want to share their knowledge and experience with students in High School. Under this bill, business professionals could receive a one-year visiting scholar certificate if they complete an application and a background check. The certificate could be renewed twice. This will allow schools the flexibility fill essential gaps with the help of business professionals in our community.
- For the second straight year, the General Assembly passed a budget that fully funds the state’s public-school funding formula. The budget also provides stable funding for the state’s public colleges and universities. The Governor’s Initial budget included $65 million in cuts to public institutions. With leadership from both the Missouri House and Senate, they were able to restore those cuts and continue to support auxiliary programs important to the University of Missouri System.
There were several bills that tackled tax reform and reduced the tax burden both individuals and businesses experience.
- Senate Bill 884, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koenig, would make Missouri’s corporate tax rate the second lowest in the nation by cutting the state corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4 percent. This is a significant step in tax reform efforts and will improve Missouri’s ranking in the competition for business investment and job creation.
- House Bill 2540, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr, incrementally brings the individual tax rate down from 6 percent to 5.1 percent if state revenue reaches certain levels.
- House Bill 1415, included language to continue the successful Missouri Works and Missouri Works Job Training programs.
- Senate Bill 891 sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe, will encourage the support of businesses that produce and sell goods made in Missouri. The legislation designates the second week in October as “Buy Missouri Week” as part of Lt. Gov. Mike Parson’s Buy Missouri initiative.
Moving Infrastructure Forward
In December 2017, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce hosted the last meeting of the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Taskforce in Columbia. Over the last few legislative sessions, we have advocated for a sustainable funding plan for a comprehensive transportation system including a focus on rebuilding Interstate 70.
Inside the Task Force’s final report, they highlighted numerous positive steps the state could take to invest in our infrastructure. The Missouri Department of Transportation currently maintains the nation’s seventh largest transportation system with funding that ranks 46th in the nation in revenue per mile, which has left the state with $825 million in annual high-priority unfunded needs.
- In the final hours of the session, lawmakers passed House Bill 1460, Sponsored by Rep Jean Evans. This bill gradually raises Missouri’s 17 cents per gallon fuel tax between 2019 and 2022 by 10 cents per gallon and will need to go to voter’s approval to be enacted. Missouri has the 3rd lowest fuel tax in the nation behind only Oklahoma and Alaska.
- Lawmakers also passed a bill to bring Missouri energy consumers more stable and predictable rates as well as improved energy reliability. Senate Bill 564 will put more than $133 million back in the pockets of Missourians by mandating that utilities refund to customers savings gained from the recently passed federal tax cuts within 90 days of the bill being signed into law. Without this legislation, those refunds could take years. The bill will also cap electric rates so that utility bills are more stable and predictable. For the first time in state history, rate increases would be capped at an average annual rate of 2.85 percent or 3 percent. In addition, the bill will modernize Missouri’s outdated grid to help make it more resilient to outages and more secure from cyber-attacks. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce testified in support of this bill throughout the legislative process.