WHAT OTHERS SAY: Take action, state lawmakers, on Right to Work laws, tax credits, Medicaid

Thursday, January 10, 2013 | 4:10 p.m. CST

The new Missouri legislative session started this week, with local lawmakers proposing a variety of measures.

After too many years of gridlock, there are promises of action. We will be watching closely to see if they produce — and if what they produce promises to be good for Missouri.

At the top of many lawmakers’ agendas is Right to Work legislation. While we question whether the state should move all the way to Right to Work, which would allow employees in union shops to gain the benefits of collective bargaining without having to pay union dues, we are interested in what Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, calls “Right to Work lite.” Austin and another Springfield Republican, Rep. Eric Burlison, have sponsored Paycheck Protection legislation, which prohibits unions from using dues for political purposes without permission from workers. It’s worth watching.

We strongly support tax credit reform, especially the return of benevolent tax credits. Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, and Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, are pushing to separate benevolent credits from the more controversial economic development tax credits, a move we think has merit.

But we are also interested in learning more about economic development credits, which have been successfully used in Springfield. Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, favors capping the total amount of credits available, as well as “sunsetting” credits.

We agree with Rep. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who pointed out that economic development credits should not be vilified without recognizing the good they can do for communities and the state.

The legislature will have plenty to consider regarding the issues surrounding Obamacare. Expanding Medicaid is one of the most controversial, with opponents warning that the money promised by the federal government to support the expansion will eventually dry up, leaving the state with the bill. Proponents, however, bemoan passing up federal funds and the possible positive impact the money could have on our state’s economy.

We would encourage legislators concerned about financing to consider a small increase in the tobacco tax since Missouri’s tax is lowest in the country.

This area’s one Democrat in the House, Charlie Norr of north Springfield, has named early childhood education and development as one of his priorities. We agree but share concerns that limited funds not be siphoned from elementary and secondary education.

There is much more work to do. Let’s hope the legislature can work together to get it done this year.

Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.

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