Amendments could sink health care bill

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:17 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate sponsor of one of the governor’s main economic priorities said Tuesday that he will not sign on to the newest version because it was loaded with various tax breaks.

Sponsoring Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, said lawmakers were simply trying to do too much with one bill and because so many controversial elements were added, he doesn’t think it will get through the Senate.

“It’s a joke,” Griesheimer said.

The legislation started as a bill that expanded a tax incentive for businesses, allowing employers to keep the withholding taxes on their workers’ paychecks if they provide health care and pay at least the county’s average wage to their workers. The bill would push the program’s expiration to 2018.

But by the time the bill cleared the House and Senate earlier this year, it had ballooned to legalize ticket scalping and give tax incentives for people to drive alternative fuel cars, movie makers to film in Missouri and airlines to fly from Missouri airports across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said Tuesday that if the bill was already big enough to make it difficult to clear the Senate, lawmakers had no reason to stop adding amendments. His amendment to expand the proposed film tax credit in the bill from $8 million to $10.5 million annually was accepted.

Currently, the state offers up to $1.5 million annually in tax credit for filmmakers.

“If we’re going to have a problem, then let’s put everything in there and see where it’s going to be,” Crowell said.

Most of the new provisions to the legislation were added by the Senate. During floor debate, senators said the plan was to permit every new tax incentive program to be added but strip them out when a conference committee between the House and Senate negotiated a final version. But the stripping out of amendments largely did not happen.

After an hourlong session, the most significant change made by the conference committee was the removal of restrictions on using tax breaks for redevelopment.

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