JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators on Tuesday passed $40 million in annual tax breaks for farmers, ranchers and other agriculture-related businesses as part of a special legislative session.
With the legislation now on the governor’s desk, lawmakers are headed back home, ending nearly a month-long special session. At one point, it didn’t look like there was a path forward, but weeks later the General Assembly passed measures that reauthorize tax credits for farmers and lower the state’s income tax rate.
“Two or three weeks ago, I’m not really sure we knew what the outcome was,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) said. “We didn’t know exactly how this was going to go. These are two issues that obviously could have brought forth a lot of passion, thought and enthusiasm from different groups.
Senators voted 26-3 in favor of the tax incentive package, which primarily renewed tax credits that had expired. The measure includes tax credits to benefit companies involved in meat processing, biodiesel, ethanol fuel and urban farms. It also expands government loan programs for farmers.
“The bill that we passed is a big win for rural Missouri,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz told reporters Tuesday.
Republican Sen. Mike Moon, a cattle rancher, during Tuesday debate raised concerns about foreign-owned Missouri farm companies benefitting from the tax breaks. Moon voted against the bill.
“We want to protect Missouri farmland for our families who come after us,” Moon said, adding that he wants “to make sure it stays in the hands of Missourians.”
Republican state Sen. Jason Bean, a farmer in the Bootheel who ushered the agricultural tax credits through the Senate, said he expects lawmakers to debate foreign ownership of Missouri farms during the next legislative session, which begins in January.
“I know it’s a priority for several of us, to what degree, that we need to talk about,” Bean said. “I think we’re going to put some proposals together and see what makes the most sense for Missouri farms.”
The Republican-led Missouri Legislature passed a bill with similar agricultural tax credits during the regular legislative session, which ended in May.
GOP Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the measure, citing a two-year sunset attached to many of the tax credits that he said was too short. He called lawmakers back for a special session to extend agricultural tax breaks for another six years, as well as spend some of the state’s revenue surplus on an income tax cut for individuals.
“When you bring businesses into Missouri to do valued added products to increase the price for our products, companies really don’t look at two years,” Bean said. “They want to know six years, they want to know some viability and two years just wasn’t enough.”
The House last week sent Parson a bill to cut individual income taxes from 5.3% to 4.95% beginning next year and phase in additional cuts until the rate hits 4.5%.
“We’re walking out of here with our heads held high and happy that Missourians are in a better place,” Rowden said.
The legislation reduces the income tax rate to 4.95% beginning in 2023. Then, future reductions would only happen if certain revenue growth is met. Under Senate Bill 3 and 5, sponsored by Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, and Sen. Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) Missouri’s revenue must grow by $175 million in the first year to lower the rate again to 4.8%. By 2025, revenue must grow by at least $200 million to lower the income tax rate after that. When fully implemented, Missouri’s income tax rate would be 4.5%.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo (D-Independence) told reporters this tax cut wouldn’t have been possible without the Biden administration.
“The Republican majority should be sending a very big thank you card to President Biden,” Rizzo said. “He has provided the surplus that has allowed them to do the tax cut. We aren’t even in a special session if it’s not for the federal dollars that Joe Biden provided to the state.”
According to Parson’s office, for a Missourian making $35,000 a year, he or she is estimated to save $141. For a single adult bringing home $25,000 a year, they can expect a tax cut of $115 whereas someone making $40,000 a year would save $170. Those earning around $75,000 a year would save $324.
According to the Missouri Budget Project, if a Missouri household makes $13,000 a year, they would save $3 under this plan. Those making $30,000 would roughly save $17. Taxpayers with incomes of between $40,000 and $52,000 would see an average tax cut of $66 in 2023. Those earning between $66,000 and $86,000 would save $143. Missourians making somewhere between $110,000 and $152,000 would save $348. Those making around $332,00 would save $826. And taxpayers making between $500,000 and $1.5 million would save around $4,000.
With a price tag of nearly $1 billion, some would like to see the state’s surplus used for investments.
“So many people have dropped out of the workforce, especially moms, because they cannot afford the cost of childcare, or they don’t have access to childcare,” Sen. Lauren Arthur (D-Kansas City) said. “We’re sitting on a surplus of money, at least at this moment, and there are a lot of Missourians who want to come back to the workforce but can’t afford to pay $10,000 every year for a child to justify it.”
The Senate’s passage of the agricultural tax incentive bill caps off the rest of the lawmakers’ unfinished business for the special legislative session.