The House Budget Committee took testimony this week from Gov. Mike Parson’s administration. Parson outlined many of his budget priorities for the next fiscal year in his State of the State Address, but this week was the first time members of the House and Senate committees that will write the budget were able to ask questions of administration officials.
Members of both the House and Senate raised questions to the Director of Revenue Joel Walters regarding errors made by the department on Missouri income tax withholding tables. Tax collections for the state of Missouri are down almost 10 percent, or over $500 million compared to last year. Members of the committee were told by Walters that the implementation of changes made due to the federal tax cut amplified the effects of a 15-year-old miscalculation in state tax withholding tables. Walters explained that the error will not affect the amount of taxes owed by Missourians, but many citizens will see an increase in their tax bills that would normally be covered from withholdings taken out of each paycheck. The department also previously stated that citizens that normally receive a state tax refund could find themselves with a refund that is reduced by up to 90 percent. Legislators on both sides of the aisle were upset with the lack of communication from the department regarding the error and expressed concern that their constituents will be financially prepared to pay their surprise tax bill by April 15. MSTA encourages members to check your tax information early and if necessary, meet with your tax preparer to discuss how you will be impacted by this error.
The House Subcommittee on Appropriation-Education, chaired by Rep. Rusty Black, held an organizational meeting which included a short presentation from DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven. The committee also took public testimony. The subcommittee will continue to work crafting the budgets for HB2 and HB3 during the coming weeks.
The Senate Health and Pensions Committee conducted a hearing on SB17 (Romine) that would allow all PSRS retirees who would return to work for community colleges to be covered under the 550 hours and 50 percent of salary statutory restrictions.
Under current law, any person retired from PSRS may be employed by an employer included in the retirement system in a position that does not normally require a Missouri teacher certification. Such a person may earn up to 60 percent of the statutory minimum teacher salary ($15,000) without a discontinuance of the person’s retirement allowance.
If any such person is employed in excess of the limitations, the person shall not be eligible to receive their retirement allowance for any month during which they are employed.
MSTA testified in support of the bill. Last year changes were made to laws governing PSRS members who return to work in a position that does not require a teaching certificate to work under a limit on the amount of money earned ($15,000) instead of number of hours worked. This bill corrects the unintended consequences that affect community college employees.
The bill was voted do pass out of committee unanimously and was granted consent status. Bills placed on the consent calendar must be noncontroversial and not cost or save money to the state and may not contain penalty provisions. Legislation that is on the consent calendar follows the same process as other bills but may not be amended on the floor.
Other legislation affecting the PSRS system includes:
HB69 (Dinkins) reinstates the 2.55 percent multiplier for members of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri who have 31 or more years of creditable service.
HB77 (R. Black) allows all PSRS retirees who would return to work for community colleges to be covered under the 550 hours and 50 percent of salary statutory restrictions. (Same as SB17)
HB362 (Roeber) increases the annual cap on the number of hours a retired teacher may serve as a substitute without impacting retirement benefits from 500 to 700 hours.
HB459 (Washington) repeals a provision that allowed a teacher, retired from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri, to be employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System and earning up to 60 percent of the minimum teacher’s salary. Retired teachers would be allowed to make up to 50 percent of their salary as an active employee as outlined in the bill. A provision requiring contributions to be paid to the retirement system by the hiring employer of such person is also repealed.
MSTA is again launching Pledge to Pledge, a program designed to help connect legislators with teachers and local schools. Many current legislators have a background in public education, or have volunteered in their children’s schools, but the Missouri General Assembly is comprised of legislators with a wide variety of life experiences. As educators, we can’t take for granted that our elected officials know about the hard work and innovation that is happening every day across the state.
The Pledge to Pledge program helps match up teachers and legislators to bring elected officials into schools to lead the Pledge of Allegiance for the day. This is also a great opportunity to invite your Representative or Senator to read a book to your class or talk about what it means to be the voice of your community at the State Capitol.
To sign up for the Pledge to Pledge program visit pledge.msta.org and MSTA staff will work to connect you with your legislator for a school visit.
MSTA advocates for and empowers public educators so they can teach. MSTA’s mission statement is present on association materials and throughout the MSTA headquarters. MSTA staff work hard to fulfill this mission, but when it comes to advocating at the Missouri State Capital, nothing replaces the importance of members visiting one-on-one with their legislators.
MSTA region-organized Capitol Visits begin with a briefing from MSTA Government Relations lobbyists that includes the latest information regarding bills proceeding through the legislative process as well as up to date information about the state budget. Members have the ability to ask questions and learn more about what MSTA does in the Capitol to fulfill MSTA’s mission and advocate for public education. Once the briefing is concluded, members are encouraged to meet with their local officials and discuss both pending legislation, as well as update their legislators on what is happening in the school districts they represent. Members can also use this time to invite their elected officials to participate in the Pledge to Pledge program, speak to their class, or visit a local CTA meeting.
MSTA Region Capitol Visits are also a great opportunity to connect with other MSTA members and share successes and struggles that members face in their districts.
Registration is still open for Capitol visits, and information can be found at
msta.org/advocacy. Members can also contact Suzanne Conner in the MSTA Government Relations office, firstname.lastname@example.org, or your Member Services Coordinator.