Medicaid Transformation

Missouri lawmakers’ decision on Medicaid expansion will also have a far-reaching impact on every Missouri employer.

“The impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on employers is more far reaching than most can imagine.  Not only does it dramatically increase how much employers have to pay for health insurance coverage for their employees, it also is driving costs up on our state’s health care providers, some of the largest employers in Missouri,” Mehan said.

All health care providers will see radical cost shifts as a result of ACA and those cost shifts will be borne by Missouri employers in the form of higher insurance costs and taxes.  Some small health care providers, such as rural hospitals, will not be able to shift enough of the burden and may be forced to limit services or even close their doors.

“These are the cold, hard facts about Obamacare and these are the reasons the Missouri Chamber is advocating that Missouri expand its Medicaid program in order to recoup as many federal dollars as we can as a state to ease the blow,” Mehan explains.  “This is the only action the Legislature can take to make Obamacare better. We can block transformation on philosophical arguments, but the reality is this position is going to close hospitals’ doors. This is a chance to make the changes we want made to Medicaid without losing billions in taxes our citizens have already paid.”

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Unemployment insurance reform

Reducing the tax liability of Missouri’s unemployment system is another measure that would provide broad-based relief to all Missouri employers.  Following the last recession, Missouri borrowed millions of dollars from the federal government to cover claims the state fund was unable to pay.  Missouri employers, who fund the state’s unemployment insurance system, were required to pay millions of dollars more in additional penalties and interest.  This summer, Missouri’s outstanding federal debt was finally repaid.  Missouri was one of the last states to pay off its debt.  Missouri is the only state that has had to borrow federal money during the last five recessions.

“Missouri employers bear the weight of this problem, because employers fully fund the system through federal and state UI taxes.  Employers have every right to demand a more cost-effective and stable system with greater measures of accountability to root out fraud,” Mehan said.

The Missouri Chamber will work to implement stricter standards for workers who can access the system.  The Missouri Chamber also will push for legislation to tie the unemployment rate to number of weeks unemployment benefits will be paid.  These moves could help provide long-term stability for the fund in the future so that the system can serve the workers it was designed to protect – people unemployed by no fault of their own.

Several states have taken common-sense steps toward stemming the tide of unemployment insurance debt.  In the last two legislative sessions, the Missouri Chamber has successfully advocated passage by the General Assembly of similar measures.  Some of these provisions were vetoed by Gov. Nixon.

Education and Workforce Development Initiatives

Perhaps no other issue impacts Missouri’s workforce and Missouri employers’ ability to compete as much as education policy.  A long-term plan to make our education system as effective as it can be is essential to the future of our state.

“Our workforce is the front line of our economy and our education system determines the strength of that front line,” Mehan said. “Like any other component of a business or organization, if you are not constantly monitoring and making changes to keep up with the times, you will fall behind. Or workforce is too important to allow us to fall behind because we are afraid to make change.”

Recognizing this, the Missouri Chamber board of directors has approved a broad agenda of education reforms, including fully funding our education system, providing better support for high performing teachers and administrators and setting higher standards for Missouri students.

The Missouri Chamber will also advocate for measures that better align our education and workforce development system with the needs of business.

“Our employer members tell us that they have jobs to fill, but not enough qualified workers to fill those positions,” Mehan said. “We must rethink how we approach workforce development so that Missouri is maximizing training dollars toward this need.”

NEWS RELEASE: Training funds and tax fairness legislation returned to Missouri employers

The Missouri General Assembly has voted to protect Missouri employers, returning vital training funds and protections for employers in tax court.

Lawmakers voted to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of more than 50 line items in the state budget, including $900,000 to the Missouri Works job-training program.  Missouri Works provides customized training resources and assistance to existing businesses and start-ups through a partnership with Missouri Community Colleges and other local educational agencies.

The Missouri Chamber strongly supported returning these funds to our employers,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan.  “These are proven programs and vitally important to the employers that depend upon this training.”

The General Assembly also overwhelmingly supported the veto override of Senate Bill 829, legislation ending an unfair bias against many of the state’s employers.  Senate Bill 829 is sponsored by Sen. Will Krause, a Republican from Lee’s Summit. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg.

The bill would ensure that all taxpayers are presumed innocent when the Missouri Department of Revenue chooses to bring them to court in a tax dispute. Under current state law, companies with more than 500 employees and a net worth of greater than $7 million are actually presumed guilty in the state’s tax courts. All other taxpayers are presumed innocent in tax disputes.

“This bill addresses that basic issue of fairness. Current law holds that certain employers are guilty until proven innocent.  That’s just not right,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “Why should we treat one class of taxpayer differently from the rest?”

Securing this legislation has been a priority of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for more than a decade.  Prior to 1999, all employers were considered guilty until proven innocent in tax court.

“The Missouri Chamber has pushed to incrementally change this provision year after year and this veto override marks the final step in that process.  The job is finally finished!” Mehan said.

In addition to the change in income tax disputes, SB 829 also requires the revenue department to prove its case in all sales tax exemption disputes.  This provision will be a benefit to both small and large employers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

Lawmakers vote to extend safety net for employers and workers: the Shared-Work Program

A program that helped more than 30,000 workers keep their jobs last year has been extended, thanks to action by Missouri lawmakers.  The Missouri Senate gave unanimous approval today to Senate Bill 844, legislation that extends the federal Shared-Work Program.  The Missouri House approved the bill yesterday on a vote of 143-4. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican from Springfield.  SB 844 now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk for signature.

factory workerNearly 350 Missouri employers were able to avoid layoffs last year using the Shared-Work Program.  Instead of cutting staff, employers can reduce workers’ hours through the program, with wages lost to workers supplemented by partial unemployment benefits.

“This safety net allows companies to weather tough economic times without losing their skilled workforce.  At the same time, the program helps Missouri workers make ends meet,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “In addition to supplementing lost wages, employees can also retain employer-provided benefits, such as health care.”

The program is a win-win for employers, workers and the state.  It is a proven method for keeping jobs in Missouri.

“Employer members have told us that the Shared-Work Program has helped many of them stay in business during tough times.  Companies and jobs saved are important to the state’s bottom line,” Mehan said.

When Missouri Chamber members were alerted that the Shared-Work Program was in jeopardy if this legislation was not passed, many reached out to their legislators and urged action. Their action played a key role in pushing the extension over the finish line.

Similar legislation, House Bill 1713, was sponsored by Rep. Jeanne Lauer.  Rep. Lauer provided leadership and support on her bill and SB 844.

 

House passes bill to clarify worker classification

The Missouri House has passed legislation that would make easier for Missouri employers to determine when a person is an employee versus an independent contractor.

House Bill 1642 is sponsored by Rep. Kurt Bahr, a Republican from St. Charles. It would task the Missouri Department of Labor with creating a clear and concise rule for defining “independent contractor” and a procedure for changing an individual classification from an independent contractor to an employee.

This clarification is critical because worker classification disputes can be time consuming and expensive for employers to resolve.

Under the bill, employers would have 60 days to comply with the reclassification of an employee following an audit, without being fined or assessed back taxes.

The legislation also gives employers the opportunity to request an opinion letter from the DOL regarding worker classification, which would protect the employer from future fines if the department subsequently determines that the person is an employee.

For more information on labor issues, contact Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.