A Message from Chamber Chair Russ Welsh: Thoughts from Jefferson City
Yesterday, Kristi Wyatt, Chelsey Smith, and I joined our counterparts from the St. Louis, Springfield, and Missouri State Chambers at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City for a series of meetings with elected officials to discuss a number of statewide issues of importance to the business community.
While I left Jefferson City feeling more optimism than previous years that the legislators are committed to resolving important issues this session after several years of logjams with no real progress, the session lasts until mid-May and there are many important and interconnected issues to address. The leadership on both sides of the Capitol and the Governor's office seem primed to tackle tax credit reform, workers' compensation, and a statewide bonding package to address urgent capital improvement and economic development needs.
Throughout the day, a deal was being brokered in the Senate to modify the law relating to the Second Injury Fund and occupational disease within the workers' compensation system. The primary modifications we have pushed seem likely to become law, but the occupational disease issues face some hurdles.
Economic development issues that appear to be moving forward include creation of incentives for the data center industry and angel investment incentive act. Leaders were anxiously awaiting a court ruling for the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, hoping the Court finds that MOSIRA can be implemented and decoupled from the limiting provision. If the MOSIRA is not upheld, there remain opponents, particularly in the Senate, and passage a second time is not certain.
Discussions on the merits of the quality jobs act continue. All members of the Major Metro partnership support the use of the quality jobs programs and also modifying it to authorize retention benefits.
Additionally, each chamber of commerce supports the expansion of the Medicaid program but leadership in both the Senate and in the House were pretty adamant that Medicaid expansion was not going to be part of their budgets. A key staffer from Governor Nixon's office indicated it was the Governor's top priority. The Governor wants to see any savings from tax credit reform used to expand Medicare but there are a number of bills that would use the savings to reduce individual and corporate tax rates essentially in response to Kansas. This conflict may stall results in many areas and is unlikely to be resolved until later in the session despite all of the early positive vibes. If we want Medicaid expansion, the business community will have to make a strong case that expansion has an economic development/jobs impact and that failure to do so jeopardizes local communities where the hospitals are major employers.
Finally, there is growing talk of a major state bond issue or even two. The Speaker has submitted the outlines of a program. Committees and stakeholders will begin weighing in on projects soon. We have begun local meetings with interested parties including the City and the County about the best way to promote Kansas City area projects in any bond issue. The bond issue will be tied to tax credit reform in all likelihood. Additionally, the recently mentioned transportation bond issue does not yet have traction, though I am sure there will be further discussions and lobbying to promote a major transportation program perhaps supported by a sales tax.
I hope all of you will get involved, or continue to be involved, in the KC Chamber's policy efforts including participating in our next event in Jefferson City, a dinner on March 4 with all members of the General Assembly invited. Register here.
It is imperative that the state's business community and KC's business community continue the dialogue with these leaders on making the state a better place for business.