Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder Press Releases
April 18, 2012
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder's Week in Review
April 18, 2012
In the spotlight: Clock ticking on General Assembly
With about a month to go, the Missouri General Assembly is kicking into high gear for the home stretch of its legislative session. The next few weeks will be critical for enacting several important pieces of legislation. With few individual bills moved through the Legislature, expect lawmakers to pass a flurry of bills during the last few days of the session.
Some of the Republican priorities already have been passed. But bills to reform workers compensation and workplace discrimination laws to reduce costly litigation and make Missouri more business-friendly were vetoed by Gov. Nixon. Senate and House leaders are working to come up with different versions of the workers compensation bill, at least, that they hope the governor will sign.
Unfortunately, the governor has staked out a pretty clear position against any version of either of the bills.
Two priorities that remain to be resolved are comprehensive education legislation and approval of a state budget. Undoubtedly, it will be a busy few weeks at the Capitol.
The Blessing of Easter
I had the great pleasure to spend Easter morning at Centenary Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, joining the choir to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. I pray that the glory and promise of this joyous time of year brings hope, peace and joy to everyone, and we all might experience in full measure the awesome blessings of God's redemptive grace.
Prevailing wage update
The Senate this week is debating a bill that would change the way prevailing wage is determined in the state and would set aside prevailing wage requirements for public works projects in counties that have been declared a federal disaster area.
The prevailing wage rate now is determined from wage surveys by the Department of Labor. But because these surveys mostly come from large contractors in major metropolitan areas, the wage rates are much higher than wages paid for similar construction jobs in rural areas. If the prevailing wage aligns more closely with the wages that actually are paid in rural or out-state counties, more public work construction will occur. This is particularly important in areas where Missourians have lost homes and infrastructure has been damaged by disasters such as tornados and floods. High wages have slowed the rebuilding efforts in Joplin, devastated by last year's tornado.
The legislation would bring stability and common sense when determining prevailing wages in Missouri. The minimum wage that is paid to workers on public construction projects varies from county to county and for different types of work. The bill being considered in the Senate would require the prevailing wage reflect typical pay for various construction jobs in specific regions of the state. Those rates would be derived from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks that data.
Unfortunately, opponents' stalling tactics have kept the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate. I'm hoping leaders in the Senate will continue to push for passage of this important legislation.
The Senate this week also sent a resolution to the House that, upon approval, urges the federal government to manage the Mississippi River to protect against devastating floods. The resolution calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to re-examine the flood plan for the Mississippi River, conduct its river operations in accordance with its duty to prevent floods and rebuild damaged levees as quickly as possible.
Last spring, the Corps of Engineers, in an effort to release pressure on a levee in Cairo, Ill., and other areas, blew a hole in the Bird's Point-New Madrid levee in Southeast Missouri, flooding scores of homes and more than 100,000 acres of prime Bootheel farmland.
In August, I wrote a letter to Corps of Engineers officials asking them to rebuild the Birds Point-New Madrid levee to the same grade and quality that existed before it was breached and to rebuild the levee as quickly as possible. I support the Senate's resolution on this issue.
Other Capitol Action
- The Senate gave its approval to a House resolution urging the U.S. Congress to support domestic development of North American sources of oil and approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. This project helps ensure America's oil independence, lower the cost of gasoline and creates jobs.
- The Senate gave initial approval to a bill related to charter schools. Senate Bill 576 would allow charter schools to operate in unaccredited districts throughout the state. Currently, charter schools are only allowed in the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts. A Senate amendment to the House bill would change provisions outlined in the Turner vs. Clayton Missouri Supreme Court decision. The Turner decision calls for unaccredited public schools to pay tuition for students who transfer to accredited districts in the same or neighboring counties. The amendment would allow local school boards in each district to determine the criteria for student transfers primarily on teacher availability and space.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee on April 12 passed the 13 bills that comprise the projected $24 billion 2013 operating budget. The budget now will be brought before the full Senate for consideration. The budget must be sent to the governor no later than 6 p.m. on May 11.
One of the dictionary definitions of code is "a system used for brevity or secrecy of communication in which arbitrarily chosen words, letters or symbols are assigned definite meanings."
Throw out the brevity part, and it's a fitting description of what the federal tax code looks like to any but professional accountants or tax lawyers. According to the Heritage Foundation, U.S. taxpayers will spend $431 billion to comply with the tax code this year. That figure represents the value of time taxpayers will spend keeping records, filling out tax forms and the cost of paying professional tax preparers to do it for them, plus the cost of the bureaucracy needed to administer the tax code.
The Heritage Foundation reports the tax code contains 3.8 million words as of 2010. That's nearly five times those in the King James Bible. In 2001, the tax code contained "only" 1.4 million words, but, with almost 4,500 changes to tax laws since, the code continues to sink deeper and deeper into an impenetrable fog of perplexity.
If a typical taxpayer finds tax forms befuddling, he or she can take solace in the fact IRS officials suffer the same problem. In 2008, the IRS was wrong on questions concerning tax law about 10 percent of the time. As a result of the cryptic tax code's complexity, myriad accountants and lawyers are employed each year to decipher it for taxpayers and business owners.
The code is arbitrary and unpredictable. Rather than an instrument for efficiently raising government revenue, it's become a tool federal lawmakers use for punishment and political control. It should be scrapped and simplified, replaced with a system based on principles of fairness and equality before the law rather than on the whim of lobbyists and lawmakers.