House passes childcare tax credit package, seeks higher teacher wages

Posted 2/14/24

The Missouri House this prior week passed a tax credit package aimed at addressing the state’s childcare crisis.

The legislation passed with a vote of 113-39 to provide tax credits to …

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House passes childcare tax credit package, seeks higher teacher wages


The Missouri House this prior week passed a tax credit package aimed at addressing the state’s childcare crisis.

The legislation passed with a vote of 113-39 to provide tax credits to childcare providers, donors to daycare centers, and businesses who help to cover the childcare costs of their employees as a solution to the ongoing workforce crisis while also serving as an economic development tool for the state.

House looks to protect children’s identities

The House also voted to pass out HB 1720 this past week, which deals with the closure of certain records under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The bill permits the closure of records containing individually identifiable information of minors aged 17 and under, held by a public governmental body like a city, town, village, or park board, except when such records are requested by the Division of Labor Standards within the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The bill sponsor explained to the House members that this bill would serve as a significant step toward public safety, noting that it was crucial for protecting minors, as it closes certain documents containing individually identifiable information regarding minors, and protects the identities of children. The legislative measure passed with a bipartisan vote of 141-5.

Preventing foreign ownership of land in Missouri

A bill seeking to prohibit any further foreign ownership of Missouri land is once again working its way through the Missouri legislature. This issue has gained prominence not only in Missouri but also at the national level and in other states. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign individuals already hold an interest in over 43.4 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, constituting approximately 3.4 percent of the country’s agricultural land as of December 31, 2022, with a notable increase in foreign ownership observed over the past decade.

In the 2023 legislative session, Missouri lawmakers attempted to pass restrictions on foreign farmland ownership, but the efforts faced challenges as debates arose regarding the scope of the measures. Until 2013, foreign countries were prohibited from purchasing Missouri farmland, but this changed to implement a one percent cap on the percentage of Missouri farmland that can be owned by foreign entities, a restriction that remains in place.

HB 1957 proposes further limiting foreign ownership to 0.5%. It necessitates reporting to the Department of Agriculture and the Attorney General 30 days before finalizing any sale or transfer of agricultural land by an alien or foreign business. Approval from the Attorney General is mandatory, and violations could result in court action and divestiture. The bill also mandates reporting changes in land usage, with exemptions for specific research or experimental land. Moreover, it prevents foreign businesses from identified foreign adversaries by the federal government from purchasing any land in the state, requiring adherence to the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The bill broadens enforcement responsibilities to include the Attorney General alongside the Department for requirements related to agricultural land owned by foreign entities.

Addressing the House Committee on Local Government, the bill sponsor emphasized the matter as a security concern, stating that the legislation aims to protect Missouri from potential adversarial or foreign threats while safeguarding one of the state’s crucial assets.

Increasing Teachers’ Salaries

Addressing the enduring challenge of attracting and retaining educators, the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education has introduced two bills that specifically concentrate on enhancing teacher salaries. Both proposals advocate for the establishment of a “Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Fund” aimed at assisting school districts in fulfilling the new minimum salary requirements, with a recommended grant matching ratio of 70/30.

In a Missouri school district, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that, on average, 43.3% of teachers depart after three years. The Missouri National Education Association reports that the state is ranked 50th in terms of average starting teacher pay and 47th in average teacher pay.

HB 1447 suggests adjustments to teacher salaries, raising the minimum to $38,000 in the 2025-26 school year and incrementally reaching $48,000 by 2029-30. The bill includes provisions for annual salary adjustments based on inflation, allows school boards to differentiate salaries for hard-to-staff subjects and schools, and makes changes to teacher education requirements. Additionally, the “Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship Program” is renamed the “Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program” with enhanced scholarships and revised repayment terms for those teaching in challenging areas.

Meanwhile, HB 1431 proposes raising the minimum teacher salary from $25,000 to $38,000 in the 2025-26 school year, with higher minimums for teachers holding a Master’s Degree and 10 years of experience, ultimately reaching $46,000 by 2027-28. Districts have the opportunity to apply for grants from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education between the 2025-26 school year and June 30, 2028, to facilitate the increase in minimum teacher salaries.

The right to hunt and fish

HJR 87 proposes a Constitutional amendment in Missouri to protect the rights of hunters and anglers, ensuring legal engagement in hunting, wildlife harvesting, and fishing upon voter approval. The amendment aims to enshrine the “right to hunt and fish” in the state constitution, safeguarding these activities from potential restrictions. It acknowledges the Conservation Department’s authority to regulate natural resources while striking a balance with individual rights. The amendment preserves the Conservation Department’s powers and allows the General Assembly to enact laws limiting these rights in specific cases, maintaining equilibrium between individual rights and conservation goals. Notably, the amendment does not impede legislation restricting these rights for individuals with certain legal conditions. The bill sponsor emphasized that the legislation seeks to uphold these rights in the state constitution, respecting the historical significance of hunting and fishing in Missouri without intending to challenge the Conservation Department’s decisions.

An update on General Revenue

The January 2024 General Revenue Report for Missouri, presented by State Budget Director Dan Haug, reveals a positive trend with a 6.3% growth in net general revenue collections compared to January 2023, reaching $1.45 billion. However, fiscal year-to-date figures show a 0.2% decrease from the previous year, totaling $7.59 billion.

Notable changes include a 17.6% decrease in individual income tax collections, an increase in pass-through entity tax collections to $688.5 million, a rise of 11.2% in sales and use tax collections for the year, and a notable 38.3% increase in all other collections for the month.

Corporate income and franchise tax collections increased slightly for the year but decreased by 12.5% for the month. Refunds increased by 18.2% for the year and a substantial 198.2% for the month.