Restrictive new climate rules coming: Senate hears bill to help Missouri assert control

As Missouri awaits new environmental rules that could significantly increase power costs for Missouri businesses and consumers, state senators heard about a plan to help the state assert greater control over the situation.

This summer, it is widely expected that the Environmental Protection Agency, under direction from President Barack Obama, will release harsh new standards regulating emissions from existing power plants. In response to this threat, House Bill 1631, by Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, would allow Missouri to make regulatory decisions locally that are in the best interest of our state.

It charges the state’s Air Conservation Commission to develop emissions standards and compliance schedules—rather than wait for the federal Environmental Protection Agency to specify these for Missouri.

“It’s an effort to try to be proactive in the state with how we are going to try to approach and deal with some of the things that we expect out of the Environmental Protection Agency and the president’s climate action plan over the summer,” Rep. Richardson told the Missouri Senate Committee on Commerce, Energy and the Environment on April 15.

The EPA action comes as President Barack Obama is working to reduce gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050.

The EPA has already released rules governing the construction of new power plants. The rules are so restrictive that they effectively prohibit the construction of new coal power plants until technology is developed to capture and store emissions underground. At this point, the technology is far from ready.

If the new EPA rules for existing power plants are equally restrictive, Missouri’s power supply could be in trouble. Nearly 85 percent of Missouri’s electrical energy needs are supplied by coal. The new regulations might force many of Missouri’s existing coal plants into retirement. This could lead to energy cost increases of at least 25 – 35 percent. The price of goods and services will soar dramatically as consumers absorb the increased costs of production and distribution that result from a forced reduction in energy output.

Rep. Richardson’s House bill would help Missouri by empowering the state to formulate its own response, rather than wait for the federal government to dictate a solution.

“What we’re attempting to do with House Bill 1631 is assert the state’s jurisdiction under the clean air act,” said Rep. Richardson.

The bill has already been passed by the House.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports this legislation and is closely watching how the EPA chooses to issue future regulations. We will keep our members informed.

For more information about environmental issues, contact Jay Atkins, atjatkins@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

 

Senators voice approval for tax cut bill

Seeking to make Missouri’s tax rates more competitive, Senators have given first round approval to a bill to reduce the tax burden on citizens and businesses.

Senate Bill 509, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, contains a number of tax cutting provisions. Among them, the bill would cut Missouri’s top income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.5 percent over a number of years, beginning in two years. The tax cut would only phase in during years when the state’s general revenue collections grow by at least $150 million.

In addition, the bill creates an individual income tax deduction for business income, which would also be phased in beginning in 2017. The new deduction would allow Missouri businesses to deduct up to 25 percent of their business income. This also would be triggered by state revenues increasing by $150 million.

The bill also includes a new $500 deduction for Missourians making less than $20,000.

It is estimated that the tax cut would cost Missouri approximately $450 million.

Earlier versions of the bill included triggers related to funding the state’s education foundation formula and reforming Missouri’s tax credit system. However, those were eliminated from the Senate-passed bill in favor of the simple revenue growth trigger.

During floor discussion on the bill, Sen. Kraus stressed that the two year delay and the $150 million revenue growth trigger would protect education funding as the tax cut is phased in. He said that passing a tax cut was critical as Missouri seeks to enhance our business climate and grow our economy.

Senate Bill 509 is one of several tax cut proposals currently under consideration. Among the others are House Bills 1253, 1295 and 1297. House Bill 1253 is sponsored by Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Kearney, while House Bills 1295 and 1297 are sponsored by Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester.

The Missouri Chamber supports efforts to reduce taxation in our state while holding education funding harmless.

For more information about tax legislation, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.