The Missouri Senate wrapped up another busy week in the State Capitol as lawmakers continue to discuss and debate numerous legislative proposals intended to make Missouri a better state to live, work and raise a family. As the calendar turns to April, my colleagues and I continue to work hard to pass common-sense, conservative proposals intended to benefit all Missourians before the end of the 2018 legislative session.
During the legislative session, members of the Missouri General Assembly have one constitutional obligation — pass a balanced operating budget for the state of Missouri. As my colleagues and I continue to discuss the state’s bottom line, it’s hard not to notice the amount of money our state spends on its numerous tax credit programs. While many of these programs are noble endeavors, several of these tax credit programs have grown out of control and are now longer financially beneficial to the state.
Senate Bill 590 aims to reform the state’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Missouri offers tax credits to developers interested in rehabilitating our state’s historic buildings. While this program has had its share of successes and seen numerous historic buildings returned to glory, unfortunately, the state spends more than $140 million a year on this program. Currently, Missouri’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit program is the largest of its kind in the country. Over the past 10 years, the state has spent more than $1 billion on this program. Senate Bill 590 aims to cap the program at $90 million a year. As lawmakers continue to face tough budget decisions, we cannot continue to fund a program to the tune of $140 million a year that only sees a 42 cents on the dollar return on investment. By lowering the cap, we are freeing up funds to go toward vital, life-saving programs for our state’s seniors as well as provide additional funding to our state’s colleges and universities. Placing a cap on this tax credit program will ensure that it continues to provide interested developers the opportunity to restore some of our state’s beautiful, historic buildings while still reigning in the tax dollars associated with this program. Following numerous hours of debate and discussion, my colleagues and I approved the proposal and sent it the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration. I am hopeful that this bill will make it across the legislative finish line before the end of the legislative session.
Missouri is currently experiencing several alarming increases within our criminal justice system. At the moment, our state is seeing an increase in violent crimes and an increase in our state’s female prison population. In 2015, Missouri’s crime rate was the 13th highest in the nation. In addition, the total number of violent crimes reported in our state increased by 11 percent between 2010 and 2015. Also, Missouri’s female prison population has grown more than any other state in the nation over the past several years. Because of these statistics, the Missouri State Justice Reinvestment Task Force worked with stakeholders from the criminal justice system and officials from all three branches of state government to develop legislation to reform our state’s criminal justice system.
Senate Bill 966 establishes several new programs intended to reform Missouri’s prison system. This legislation establishes a community behavioral health program, through the Department Corrections, to provide comprehensive, community-based treatment services for individuals, under the supervision of the department, with serious behavioral health conditions. The legislation also requires the Department of Corrections to develop and utilize a streamlined risk/need assessment tool in order to evaluate the needs and risks of offenders and match them with the appropriate services within the department. I believe this tool plays a vital role in reducing recidivism within Missouri’s prison population. Lowering recidivism rates plays an important role in not only reducing Missouri’s prison population, but it could possibly eliminate the need for our state to build additional prisons, saving the state millions of dollars.
In addition, the legislation requires the department to provide gender-responsive and trauma-informed supervision strategies and programs to address the needs of Missouri’s female prison population. I believe this legislation plays an important role in reforming our state’s criminal justice system and increasing public safety in our state. After receiving approval from the Missouri Senate, the legislation now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for further consideration.