Yesterday, Missouri lawmakers began a special session during which Republicans will try to pay for a business tax cut by eliminating a tax credit that benefits more than 100,000 senior citizens and disabled people.
Missouri Republicans are just the latest in a long list of state legislatures that are funding more corporate tax breaks on the backs of low- and middle-income residents. In this case, Republicans are targeting a property tax credit that helps offset higher rent for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens:
At stake is a tax credit that provides up to $750 for lower-income elderly and disabled people. Called the “Circuit Breaker,” it is designed to be an offset for the property taxes included in the rent paid by people with incomes of $27,500 or less. The tax credit costs $53 million annually. Repeal is part of a package that also would impose limits and sunset dates on credits targeted to developers. The Circuit Breaker tax credit is the only credit slated for repeal.
“The real issue is that many people with disabilities simply can’t own their own homes because they live on a subsistence income,” said Edward Duff of Joplin, a member of the Governor’s Council on Disability. “It really is a sort of parity to offer these renters this shelter.”
Once again, Republicans have shown they are not averse to raising taxes, as long as they are on the poor. The “circuit-breaker” tax credit is such an important aid for low-income residents that 29 other states offer property tax circuit-breakers or similar programs, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Killing the credit would raise taxes on groups including disabed vets and senior citizens by up to $750 a year.
The proposal has drawn criticism from a diverse range of groups, from conservative anti-tax crusaders to liberal groups. Opponents include the AARP, the Association of Retired Missouri State Employees, the liberal-leaning Missouri Budget Project and the conservative United for Missouri, as well as agencies that work with the disabled on the local level.
The Post-Dispatch reports that Republicans have faced such a backlash for trying to repeal the tax credit that the tax-credit package they crafted may be unraveling. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Chuck Purgason (R), has prepared an alternative plan aimed at spreading tax credit cutbacks more equally among low-income residents and developers.
“Republicans are always portrayed as taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and we didn’t want to do that,” Purgason said. However, it’s unclear if there’s enough of a consensus to pass the alternative bill.