Some members of the Missouri Legislature are accusing state Department of Revenue officials of covering up a mistake that would have reduced the state budget by $60 million.
State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, who serves on the House Budget Committee, said an error was found in a financial estimate for a corporate tax cut bill. Kendrick, the House Minority Whip, spoke about the issue during House debate last week.
“This would be a scandal in any other year where we didn’t have scandals unfolding every single day. This is awful,” said Kendrick. “This is a $60 million swing in a bill that they were not going to tell us about, that they knew about.”
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, told the Kansas City Star he learned about the issue when he met with budget and planning officials last week and questioned what the budget impact would be on proposed tax bills.
Kendrick called the alleged move by Revenue officials “gross negligence”.
“That is disrespectful. It’s unethical. I think when you’re talking about where this money would’ve came from, that it’s immoral. I think people should lose their job,” said Kendrick. “I am irate by the actions of the Department of Revenue. I am irate. I think it’s an absolute shame and everybody on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, should be irate.”
The legislation headed to the governor’s desk would reduce the state’s corporate tax rate from 6.25% to 4%.
Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, accuses bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, of knowing about the discrepancy and not saying anything. During a Senate press conference on the final day of session, Koenig told reporters he thinks he learned about the mistake in early May but he does not recall the exact moment that he became aware of the error.
During debate, Rep. Justin Alferman, the House Budget Committee Vice Chairman, agreed with Kendrick.
“This is a bigger problem that we have been having through the budget process, through the legislative process, of departments purposely withholding of information. I don’t care what department it is,” said Alferman. “If they have that information and they are purposely not giving us correct information, that prohibits us from doing our job to the best of our abilities. It is alarming. It’s scary. It’s exactly what you (Kendrick) said: it’s either incompetence or gross negligence.”
In a statement to Missourinet, Department of Revenue Director Joel Walters said the agency discovered the error after a May 1 House hearing on the bill. Walters said members were not notified of the mistake because he thought lawmakers were going with a House version – making the old Senate version irrelevant.