WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri friendly to business but that's not funding education

Monday, October 15, 2012 | 4:51 p.m. CDT

The silly season has arrived.

That's that time of year during an election season in which the allegations going back and forth between various campaigns are so absurd they're hardly worth mentioning.

Take Missouri's gubernatorial candidates, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and Republican Dave Spence.

The two campaigns are spending thousands of dollars arguing in television advertisements about whether Mr. Spence has ever been a banker. On Friday, Mr. Spence actually sued the governor over calling him a banker. We are not making this up. 

It reminds us of the episode of the timeless television sitcom "Seinfeld" when, in a bizarre attempt to get his friend Newman out of a speeding ticket, Kramer testifies that he was distraught that day because he never fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a banker.

Yes, the dispute is that silly.

But on one important matter of public policy, Mr. Spence and Mr. Nixon agree.

They both despise taxes. They both believe that Missouri's taxes are too high, or at least high enough, and that raising taxes somehow would make Missouri less business friendly.

They're both wrong, and another in a long line of studies and reports on Missouri's tax environment helped make the case last week.

The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, released its yearly Business Tax Climate index, a report that aims to determine whether various states are business friendly, based on tax burdens.

Missouri scored high, ranking 16th-friendliest tax climate for businesses in the nation.

Only one border state did better, Tennessee, and it was ranked 15th.

In the categories that matter most to businesses, Missouri ranks in the top 10: eighth-lowest for corporate taxes, and sixth-best for both unemployment insurance and property taxes. In each of these categories, Missouri's business tax climate is first or second best compared to every border state.

Missouri is, and has been for a very long time, a very good place to do business when it comes to having low taxes.

So as our leaders examine the root causes of Missouri's economic malaise, we suggest they look to the real facts. Missouri is friendly to businesses, but it's not funding education.

According to local school district funding, Missouri ranks 47th in the nation. It ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to providing state support for higher education.

Sure, it's the silly season, so our politicians can flippantly suggest that each side has its own studies, and that facts are fungible.

But they aren't. Comparing school funding, and tax rankings, is as simple as one, two, three.

Missouri's businesses, and employees, aren't struggling because their taxes are too high, but because the state refuses to invest in its future.

Neither candidate for governor has a meaningful plan to deal with this simple reality, because saying “no new taxes” is so much easier.

Instead of doing actual math, they're arguing over who was a banker.

As they said on "Seinfeld": Serenity now.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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