By The Associated Press
Jefferson City News Tribune, May 5
Revenues raise exuberance for capital improvements
Rational exuberance is how we might characterize a proposal to direct increased state revenue to some much-needed capital improvements.
In this forum on Jan. 31, we cautioned against spending with "irrational exuberance," a phrase coined in 1996 by Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
We have not abandoned that caution. With the state budget deadline approaching, many spending proposals remain on the legislative table.
But state revenues also are on the rise. Financial statistics released Thursday showed revenues through April came in 11.2% higher than at this point last year.
The increase prompted Gov. Jay Nixon to up the ante on a number of projects he proposed in his State of the State address in January. In addition, some of the spending has been shifted from a proposed bond issue, which is borrowed money, to a capital improvements spending measure from general revenue.
Before ending its work week, the House advanced to the Senate a capital spending measure that largely reflects Nixon's priorities. Like other budget measures, the House and Senate must agree on the capital improvements bill by 6 p.m. Friday.
Most encouraging is an estimated $50 million allocation for structural, masonry and window repairs at the Capitol.
Mirroring our April 27 comments about stewardship of the Cole County Courthouse, these majestic government centerpieces must be maintained.
We commend our local elected officials for recognizing Capitol improvements are necessary, not cosmetic.
State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, acknowledged the building is nearing 100 years old and said, "We have a lot of problems here. We have a lot of water problems, specifically ..."
Similarly, we support the estimated $13 million to plan and design a replacement for Fulton State Hospital.
As noted in a February news story after a tour of the mental hospital opened in 1851, the facility has earned the reputation of being "the most dangerous place to work in Missouri."
Missouri must replace these medieval conditions with a modern mental health facility designed to treat patients and protect staff.
Also included in the plan is $38 million to renovate the Missouri Department of Transportation Central office in the Capitol complex and to plan, design and build a new state office building on the Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment site.
We are eager to hear more details about the purpose, size and precise location for the new building, as well as how it will dovetail with other concepts for the site.
The increased revenue and capital improvement plans are encouraging. Also encouraging is that Nixon has asked lawmakers for the authority to spend the money over the next two years, but has promised to do so only if the increased revenues remain a part of the state's income picture.
We must remain mindful that exuberance must be tempered with a rational approach to budgeting.
The Kansas City Star, May 5
Ford's growth buoys area job outlook
Ford Motor Co. brought a truckload of good news to the Kansas City area last week.
The automaker plans to add 900 jobs and a third shift at its Claycomo plant to boost the production of the popular F-150 pickup.
The added F-150 shift is expected to start in the third quarter of 2013. That's on top of 1,100 jobs at the Claycomo plant for the production of the Transit commercial van, which is expected to start in 2014.
Frank Lenk, chief economist with the Mid-America Regional Council, said the area economy can expect to gain two jobs for each one that Ford adds because of benefits to area supplier companies and demand created from workers' spending because they have better-paying manufacturing jobs$. generated from local production will stay in this area longer.
Ford's increased investment in the Kansas City area speaks well of the local workforce, its efficiency, the plants' profitability and government support for the automaker.
The Missouri General Assembly in 2010 provided the company with an incentive package resulting in a tax savings of up to $100 million over 10 years for Ford's planned $400 million investment in the Claycomo assembly plant.
The added workers will boost the Claycomo plant employment to about 5,000 and signal an overall uptick in the area and U.S. economy.
The Joplin Globe, May 2
Go slow with tax credit caps
Legislators are right to periodically review the more than 60 tax credit programs Missouri offers. Each one should have to justify its existence.
And because low-income housing tax credits are among the largest of those programs, they should not necessarily be above scrutiny.
But we caution legislators to avoid draconian action with a program that has a proven track record.
Only a few years ago, the low-income tax credit program was cut by $124 million.
Now legislators are looking at reducing the program further, from the current cap of $190 million.
The House is looking at $135 million, which is more generous than the Senate version, and the two versions will have to be reconciled in conference committee, probably next week.
Joplin may be a community that regularly votes for low-tax, pro-business legislators, but as a low-income area, a segment of our community also depends on these credits and similar programs. Never was that more apparent than after the tornado, when low-income tax credits were given to Joplin to stimulate rebuilding.
Jefferson City, let's go slow.
Advocates point out that cutting low-income housing doesn't eliminate state spending, but simply shifts it elsewhere.
According to the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, seniors who end up in nursing homes cost the state four times as much money (through Medicaid) as they do living in a typical housing project supported by low-income housing tax credits.
These tax credits help provide safe and stable housing for children and families who might otherwise be homeless or living in dangerous conditions.
They also have stimulated the building business economy, creating jobs and revenue.
Some of the business tax credits that have been proposed or approved this year might be better candidates for a skeptical eye.
We think low-income tax credits have proved their worth, in Joplin and elsewhere. We urge our legislators to keep that in mind.
The Washington Missourian, May 1
Matter of Convenience
A bill that is advancing in the Missouri Legislature would make county sheriffs responsible for the entire process of issuing conceal and carry permits - including the printing of the actual permit card.
Currently, county sheriffs' offices review permit applications and issue paper permits to those who meet the qualifications, but the applicant then takes the permit to a license office to obtain a photo ID card noting their concealed-carry endorsement.
The bill would eliminate the Missouri Department of Revenue from the process. It was filed in the wake of the controversy concerning procedural changes by the revenue department over scanning concealed weapons permits as part of the process of obtaining a driver's license.
While that issue has been overblown, removing the Department of Revenue from the process makes sense. It is a simple matter of convenience.
Sheriffs are already responsible for the review process on whether to issue a conceal and carry permit. They do the background checks and make sure the applicant is qualified. They have the final discretion to issue the permit.
Requiring the applicant to then go to a license office to get an endorsement on their current driver's license or a separate photo ID is an unnecessary, time-consuming step in the application process. There also would still be a way under the new law for law enforcement officials to access a centralized data base to verify someone's conceal and carry status.
It is appropriate that sheriffs handle the entire process, including the actual printing of the conceal and carry card.
When it comes to issuing conceal and carry permits, we believe local authority and local control of every step of the process just makes sense.
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