Social Security tax cuts move forward
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Social Security tax cuts move forward

Date: February 15, 2007
By: Cliff Ainsworth
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 444

JEFFERSON CITY - An expanded retirement benefit tax cut bill was given preliminary approval by the Missouri House on Thursday, moving it a step closer to final House passage before it goes to the Senate.

Brushing aside concern from some Democrats that the state's surplus should be used to restore health care services, House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, said the tax breaks were the best way to help people.

"Let them keep what they have, and help them with their mortgages, help them with medicine," Jetton said on the House floor. 

The bill was expanded earlier this week to include cuts on retirement capital gains and interest up to $6,000 for an individual. It also was amended to eliminate the minimum age threshold of those eligible for Social Security tax cuts.  The original version's total was estimated at $132 million.  There is not yet an official estimate on how much the expanded bill would increase the cuts, but Jetton's office said the total package may run between $260-$360 million.

Despite overwhelming support for the bill, which was approved for final passage by a 124-22 vote, some lawmakers did not think it was the best way to allocate Missouri's expected $300 million budget surplus.

"I'm not sure it's the right time to use funds for tax cuts," said Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, who voted against the bill.  "I would like to see us restore health care to people in poverty that we cut off two years ago."

Although Democratic Minority Floor Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, voted in favor of the bill, he argued with Jetton during House debate over whether there would be enough money to provide the tax breaks in light of what the state may owe AT&T in lawsuit settlement payments.  Harris said Missouri may have to pay $300 million or more to the company and charged that Jetton had not taken that into consideration when proposing the tax cuts.

"I think it's important to balance our checkbook, even if he doesn't," Harris said later.

Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, voted for the bill.