Today an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirmed my fears that although HB253, the corporate tax-cut bill has been laid to rest at last, it will be resurrected poste haste in January when the legislature reconvenes:
On a media blitz Wednesday, House Speaker Tim Jones detailed his plan to strip out the portions [from HB 253] that Nixon found objectionable and push the legislation as the first bill of the coming session.
Those portions to be stripped out – that’ll be the hidden sales taxes and “unintended consequences” segments. Savage cuts to already low corporate taxes will remain, despite the potential damage to the state’s dismal revenue stream. Missouri’s GOPers are, after all, desperately eager to follow the “trend” set by Republican statehouses in Oklahoma, Kansas and a few other states that are attempting to spur economic growth by bankrupting their states.
It was clever of Governor Nixon to make the question of education funding the lynch-pin of his struggle to sustain the veto of HB253. Educational funding in Missouri is already dismal – per student funding in the state of Missouri is 3.1% lower than it was in 2008. But hey, guess what? Take a look at Oklahoma, one of the states that recently decimated its system of taxation – and which our Missouri GOPers cite as an example of what we have to do to be competitive. Oklahoma is now spending 22.8% less per student than it was in 2008 and is one of only 15 states that cut its per student spending this year. As for Kansas, one result of its tax cutting orgy is per student spending that is 16.5% less than in 2008 – and, according to a state district court, failing to provide students a ‘suitable’ education.” The Governor was simply trying to warn concerned Missourians that we could expect the same deterioration in our school system if we followed the tax-cutting trend that has afflicted these states.
What the Governor didn’t tell us and what many don’t realize, though, is that many of those folks behind the tax-cutting frenzy actually want to starve public education. They probably look at those Oklahoma and Kansas education spending figures and chortle with glee.
One of the staunchest supporters of the effort to revive HB253 – to the tune of over $2 million – was St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield. A year ago he floated ballot initiatives to cut income taxes and shift the burden of Missouri taxes onto the backs of the poor and middle class via expanded sales tax increases – while seriously decreasing state revenue. According to Steve Kraske, House Speaker Tim Jones wouldn’t have even brought up the sure-to-fail HB253 for an override vote if not for Sinquefield:
If you believe the hallway yak in the Missouri Capitol, Jones sought a vote on the tax bill only because the Missouri GOP’s leading benefactor, Rex Sinquefield, demanded it. Jones wanted to keep the rich guy happy more than he did his own colleagues, even though the speaker knew the vote was a loser.
Sinquefield is a never say die type of guy, and this issue is one of his two two major political obsessions The other is privatizing eduction. He has spent money lavishly attempting to drive a wedge between Missourians and their public schools, seizing on the disenchantment many feel as they are bombarded with news of failing schools in districts coping with poverty and social malaise. Nevertheless:
Education groups have balked at many of his educational initiatives, especially efforts to use state tax credits for private schools. He also sparked a backlash last year when he referenced a column in a central Missouri newspaper that seemed to suggest that the Ku Klux Klan created public education to harm black children.
You want to know why we’ll have to deal with the zombie tax-cut bill again next year and why the fight to adequately fund our public schools is a losing cause? Look no further than Rex Sinquefield and the folks who think like he does, along with the politicians who, as Steve Kraske suggests, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Sinquefield Inc.
Folks like Sinquefield are the reason that the education-for-the-future gambit that our Governor is playing to ward off tax butchery is so precarious. He’s threatening an outcome that they’ve been trying to achieve for years – the elimination of public schools, leaving education to a free market that doesn’t give a damn about the children of those on the bottom of the social heap.