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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri legislators, do something or go home

Monday, October 10, 2011 | 4:54 p.m. CDT; updated 7:30 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 10, 2011

The Missouri legislature’s special session is hung up because lawmakers can’t agree on whether tax credit programs that deprive the state treasury of millions of dollars should be evaluated on a regular basis.

They should, of course. The state Senate was correct to include a “sunset” provision in its economic development bill. The clause requires lawmakers to renew large tax credit programs every seven years or allow them to expire.

But the Senate, unfortunately, doesn’t always act so sensibly. Some of its members are inclined to grind the legislative process to a halt with actual or threatened filibusters.

Citing the prospect that a single senator could arbitrarily jettison a valuable program, House leaders are refusing to authorize sunsets for tax credits.

Acting on a suggestion from Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, the House has proposed a middle ground. Members passed a resolution that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment requiring an up-or-down vote on each tax credit every four years. The constitutional provision would give Senate leaders cover to head off a filibuster.

Setting aside the irony of lawmakers asking voters to amend the constitution to tell them to do what they know they should do anyway, Silvey’s resolution offers a chance to nudge the legislature off dead center. We would prefer that lawmakers stick with the seven-year time frame, however. Four years would create a state of perpetual uncertainty.

Since getting started in early September, Missouri’s special session has come to resemble a jalopy lurching down a highway, sputtering at every curve. Why leaders thought they had the makings of an economic development package is a mystery.

House and Senate leaders should either embrace a compromise and move forward or allow the sun to set on this wreck of a legislative exercise.

Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.


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