Faith-based Long Spoons Coalition digs for tax justice

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | 9:39 p.m. CST; updated 6:43 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 5, 2009

COLUMBIA — A new faith-based lobbyist group called the Long Spoons Coalition has stemmed from Missouri Impact, an association that advocates for public policy based on religious and moral ideas.  

For its first initiative, the coalition has joined forces with Missourians for Tax Justice, a lobbying group that promotes changes in legislation for a fairer tax system, to support a tax revision bill.

“Our income tax system for individuals has … the highest brackets starting at nine-thousand a year, a figure that was set in 1931,” said Long Spoons Coalition member Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis, who filed the bill in the House on Tuesday.

The bill, which is filed in both houses of the General Assembly, includes provision to raise the state's highest income tax bracket from $9,000 to $50,000. The move would allow taxpayers making less than $50,000 to receive a tax cut and levy the highest tax increase on the state's wealthiest 1 percent, according to a report from the coalition.

The bill, which is also expected to raise more than $1 billion for social programs such as education and health care, was filed by Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis.

If the bill is passed, Oxford said that on average, 60 percent of Missourians would pay fewer taxes than they currently pay. The tax increase would affect the top 40 percent of income taxpayers with most seeing an increase of less than half of 1 percent. The wealthiest 1 percent of Missourians, with an average income of $1,116,000, would see a tax increase of about 2 percent.

"While the size of the hole in the budget is much bigger this year because of the economic crisis, the fact that Missouri has unmet needs in providing services for its people is not new and is not a result of the economic downturn,” said Bob Quinn, the executive director for the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and a member of the Long Spoons Coalition.

Quinn said the state should give providing services to its residents a higher priority in its budget.

The Long Spoons Coalition, which is named for a Jewish parable that teaches the need for neighbors to take care of each other, hopes to encourage a statewide discussion on the inequities of the Missouri tax system by supporting the tax restructuring bill.

So far, most coalition members are centered in the St. Louis area, but the Rev. John Bennett of Jefferson City said the group will start to reach out to residents across the state in the following weeks.

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