by: Tony Pecinovsky
The right-wing Republican agenda is becoming more apparent as we inch closer and closer to January 2011 and the start of the new legislative session. Missouri Republicans will hold 26 of 34 state senate seats and 106 of 163 House seats giving them a veto proof majority – and the ability to set the legislative agenda. In fact, the new Missouri Senate President Pro-term Rob Meyer (R-Dexter) said so-called "right-to-work" legislation and lowering corporate taxes would be his top priorities. "Right-to-work" legislation would severally cripple organized labor’s ability to build and service its members. By allowing open-shops, ‘right-to-work’ would force unions to represent workers who do not pay union dues, draining union treasuries in the process. Herb Johnson, Missouri AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, said that "right-to-work" “won’t help Missouri, but it will drive down the standard of living.” According to the AFL-CIO, the average worker in a "right-to-work" state makes about $5,333 less a year than workers in other states ($35,500 compared to $30,167). Additionally, union density is far lower in "right-to-work" states; 6.6 percent compared to 15.1 percent. Supporters of "right-to-work" claim it protects workers from being forced to join a union. However, federal law already protects employees from being forced to join a union. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace death is 51 percent higher in states with so-called "right-to-work" legislation. Finally, "right-to-work" legislation isn’t fair to dues-paying union members, as it would force unions to use members’ dues money to defend all workers under the collective bargaining agreement – even those who don’t pay union dues. Other right-wing Republican priorities include lowering corporate taxes. Sen.Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) wants to cap and eventually eliminate Missouri’s franchise tax, which is levied on corporate assets, inventory and property. In 2009, the Missouri legislature eliminated this tax for about three-quarters of roughly 20,000 businesses that had been paying it. According to Schmitt, the franchise tax is a “double tax.” “It is a disincentive to have a lot of assets located in Missouri,” Schmitt said. “The bigger you get, the more you are going to be taxed.” Other Republican tax proposals include reductions in corporate income taxes and more tax credits that forgive liabilities in exchange for economic or social activity, which costs the state more than $500 million annually. According to the Missouri Budget Project, corporations in Missouri already have an unfair advantage when it comes to paying taxes. They instead propose that the Missouri legislature do the following: collect sales tax on Internet and catalog purchases, which would generate $187 million in state and local revenue; close the yacht tax loophole (individuals who purchase a 25ft-or bigger yacht do not pay sales tax), which would generate about $6 million per-year; crack-down on tax-evasion by multi-state corporations by enacting combined-reporting, which would generate about $100 million per-year; and eliminate the timely-filling discount awarded to large corporations who remit sales and payroll taxes on-time, which would generate about $92 million and $40 million respectively. In these tough economic times Missouri Republicans want to enact legislation that would lower wages and continue to give big corporations tax breaks.