Changes to tuition savings plan languish in legislature

Friday, May 16, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A bill that would have expanded Missouri's college tuition savings program appears to have died in a House-Senate dispute.

The House and Senate sponsors of the bill agreed Thursday night that the bill was dead after negotiations between the chambers fell apart. The legislative session ends at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Missouri Saving for Tuition program -- known as MOST -- allows Missourians to deduct money deposited in a college tuition savings plan from their state and federal income taxes.

Similar programs are offered by almost every state, and the House's version of the bill would have allowed the same deduction on money deposited by Missourians in any other state's plan.

In addition, the House version allowed tax deductions for money in a bank certificate of deposit if it was earmarked for college tuition.

MOST currently allows money to be invested in stocks, guaranteed bonds or a mix of the two. The additional options offered in the House bill would give Missourians more choices of investments.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, who sponsored the bill, said his goal was to make it easier for Missourians with relatively low incomes to invest in the tuition savings plan.

"Only high-end folks are taking advantage of the program," said Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth. "What I'm trying to do is help people who don't have brokers but have bankers to have access to the program."

But the Senate amended the bill, deleting provisions for investing in other states' plans and for deducting money put into Missouri's plan from Missouri taxes.

The Senate preserved only the language on investment in bank certificates of deposit.

House and Senate negotiators tried to reach a compromise over the past several days, and each chamber on Thursday tried to persuade the other to accept its version.

Senate Democratic Leader Ken Jacob called the legislation irresponsible, especially in a time of declining state revenue.

"If we pass this, (the state) budget will be further out of balance than it is already," said Jacob of Columbia. "We cannot afford to be giving tax credits to rich people. We are broke."

Luetkemeyer called the Senate approach "unacceptable."

"My bill is trying to expand the program," he said. "I'm trying to help the MOST program, not hurt it."

Luetkemeyer and Senate sponsor Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis, agreed Thursday night that the bill was dead.


Tuition savings bill is HB73.

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