Crowell reflects on legislative session at First Friday Coffee

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Missouri Legislature passed tax cuts for senior citizens, tax credit programs for businesses and funding for buildings at Southeast Missouri State University, but Sen. Jason Crowell said he's proudest of an appropriation for an autism center in Cape Girardeau.

"Cape never looked so good," said the senator as he highlighted the legislation that took place this year in a packed room of more than 200 business leaders during this month's First Friday Coffee program at the Show Me Center.

"This may be one of the top assembly sessions that we have ever done in Missouri with the legislation that got passed," Crowell said.

The senator's overview of the recent session included an income tax exemption, phased in over several years, on Social Security, which he said is the reason some retirees are choosing to stay in the area; the increased tax credits to businesses that pay high wages plus offer good benefits through the Quality Jobs Act; the increased tax credit for film production that he said will give Missouri the opportunity to attract film companies like the one that filmed "Killshot" in Cape Girardeau; and the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative to pay for campus buildings through proceeds from the sale of student loans.

All these items are subject to Gov. Matt Blunt's final approval.

The item uppermost on Crowell's mind, however, is the $2.6 million through state funding to fight autism through the construction of an 11,000-square-foot autism center along Interstate 55.

According to Crowell, one out of every 150 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism and that number is higher in Southeast Missouri.

"This center could have a wonderful impact for the quality of life for those children in our community," he said, adding that construction could begin as early as spring of next year.

Crowell said this year, for the first time in his seven years in the legislature, the state has set aside a reserve fund of $200 million in case revenue doesn't meet expectations.

This year's projected budget is $21 billion.

As for the future, Crowell said he wants to see if something could be done on the state level to lower health-care costs for small businesses. He will help facilitate a forum next week with the business community to address the issue in Southeast Missouri.

At the end of the meeting he thanked the audience of Cape Girardeau Chamber members for all their help making changes possible, joking that he has "no problem taking credit for all the wonderful ideas."

tkrakowiak@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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