JEFFERSON CITY - Local state legislators praised Gov. Mel Carnahan's State of the State Address Wednesday.
"The governor presented a well thought-out and broad-based agenda," said Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia.
The local legislators, all Democrats, spoke highly of the Democratic governor's proposed tax cuts, which total $191 million.
"The governor's tax cuts benefit a lot of people and not just a narrow special interest," said Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico.
The tax cuts are a result of the Hancock Amendment, which prohibits the state government form operating under a budget surplus, and a robust economy that has increased tax revenue. The surpluses have been refunded to Missourians in proportion of individual taxes paid, so those who have paid the most generally get the largest refunds.
"It would be very easy to do nothing and just allow the money to be refunded," said Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia. "Instead the governor is trying to give tax relief to those who need it."
The exact size of the cuts is fodder for a huge partisan debate. Republicans want to cut $630 million.
"You must be fiscally conservative in Missouri when you're talking about the budget," said House Speaker Steve Gaw, D-Moberly. "The governor's tax cuts are just that."
Farnen summed up the Republican position as he sees it.
"No matter how much the governor wanted to cut, the Republicans would have said it wasn't enough," Farnen said. "Both sides want cuts. What matters is that we achieve them without damaging roads, education and health programs."
Carnahan also spoke of the demise of the 15-year highway plan, which would have improved the state's transportation infrastructure. The state will soon establish a committee to bolster public confidence about the rural-urban fund allocation debate, he said.
"Transportation is one of the most critical problems facing our state," said Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia.