Negotiators find agreement tough on taxes or revenue

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Lawmakers laboring to balance an $18.9 billion budget for next year have eliminated as many money-raising ideas as they have agreed upon.

Rejected Tuesday by House and Senate negotiators were higher taxes on some casinos and new fees for bad drivers.

Also ruled out was the elimination of some business tax laws variously described as incentives or loopholes.

Dismissed, too, were suggestions to set aside less money for cash-flow purposes or to allow Missourians to pay taxes in advance, earning interest from the state as they would from a bank.

House and Senate negotiators are seeking to cover a $167 million shortfall in the budget for fiscal 2003.

Some also are looking for ways to raise additional money for public schools.

Through Tuesday, lawmakers had agreed on about $45 million in new revenue measures, with another $61 million dependent on bills that would first require Senate debate and passage.

Even then, negotiators said they were short of money.

The five Democrats and five Republicans trying to broker a balanced budget deadlocked several times along party lines on business tax proposals, with Republicans opposing them.

House Democrats also pushed for tax changes for casinos that would have lowered income taxes for less profitable casinos but raised them for others, resulting in a $42 million boost in state taxes. That plan was opposed by House Republicans and the Senate negotiators.

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