Missouri’s senators must stop targeting the state’s poorest families and their children in order to balance the budget. At minimum the lawmakers must find the needed $30 million to support child care subsidy programs.
House members have proposed a taxpayer amnesty bill that might generate $70 million — more than enough to support child care and other services for children. Senators should get behind this idea, or they should accept the responsibility to propose a tax increase and take the political heat off of the representatives by doing so.
The senators have sliced about $30 million from the Department of Social Services budget in their work on the 2012-2013 fiscal budget. This will have a serious impact, as was pointed out in our Voice of the Day Sunday by the Rev. Mark Struckhoff of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks and Nicole Piper of Child Care Aware of Southern Missouri. We can expect single-parent and working families to suffer as day care becomes more expensive or unavailable. It is possible that some parents will have to leave the workforce in order to care for small children.
The proposed tax amnesty bill allows Missouri residents to pay back taxes without facing a penalty and interest. Amnesties brought in $74 million during the 2002 fiscal year and $42 million a year later, according to Associated Press reports. And while we share the concern of some lawmakers that this can be done too often, it has been nearly a decade and the need is great now.
If the Senate will not back the tax amnesty then it is time for those in leadership to propose a tax increase. The most discussed have been either a hike in the tobacco tax — Missouri has the lowest in the nation — or applying a tax to Internet sales. While tax bills must originate in the House, a stated willingness on the part of senators could make the increase more palatable to the public and the representatives. And it would demonstrate the leadership we expect from senators.
Or, are the senators hoping for another mega-lottery and the resulting revenue increase in ticket sales? Is that their plan to meet the state’s needs? Or, are they simply willing to make the lives of many Missouri residents less manageable and more difficult?
We know they can do better than this. We expect them to do better than this.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.