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JEFFERSON CITY - Response to Gov. Mel Carnahan's State of the State address fell largely along party lines. Republican leaders criticized Carnahan for not cutting more taxes and said they aimed to more than double the tax relief proposed by the governor.
Democrats from Columbia countered by saying that tax cuts should not come at the expense of much-needed services.
Rep. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, accused Carnahan of continuing "his legacy...of thumbing his nose at taxpayers." The House minority leader cited among Carnahan's offenses the purchase of antique fixtures for the governor's office, the building of "Cadillac prisons" and "Medicaid for millionaires."
Both Scott and the Senate Republican leader, Steve Ehlmann of St. Charles, said that Carnahan's proposed tax cuts of $127.8 million were required by the Hancock Amendment to the state constitution, which puts a limit on state revenue.
Republicans want to offer Missourians $300 million in tax cuts without cutting programs, Ehlmann said. They would double Carnahan's homestead property tax credit to $200 million, Scott said.
To finance the extra tax cuts, Ehlmann proposed "across-the-board" reductions in the governor's recommended budget increases. Neither Ehlmann nor Scott would offer more specific details on how Republicans planned to implement the additional cuts.
Columbia lawmakers - all Democrats - were in general accord with Carnahan's proposals and cautioned against Republican tax-cutting zeal.
Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson praised Carnahan, saying that Missourians should be proud of the state's economic achievements. She also said she was pleased that Carnahan emphasized child care and health, referring to his $56.6 million proposal.
But Wilson expressed concern that too much cutting could sacrifice services. Referring to people she met while working on the health and mental health appropriations committee and said, "I hope in our eagerness to provide tax relief, no one gets the idea we are meeting everyone's needs."
Wilson also stressed that she did not want to cut taxes too much because she did not want Missouri to be "vulnerable and without any savings when our economy is not as robust."
Rep. Tim Harlan also praised Carnahan's proposals for young children. Of the address, he said, "The focus was clearly on children and families. That's an area that can't get enough attention."
Carnahan's child care proposals, which include allowing pre-kindergarten programs in public schools, establishing 3,900 more child care openings, and scholarships for child care training, would be especially appreciated in Columbia, Harlan said. He said that Columbians had especially expressed concern about safe child care after the Joanne Palmer case.
Sen. Ken Jacob said could support nearly all of the items on Carnahan's agenda. He said he was particularly pleased with the proposed budget increase for the University, which represents an 8.4% increase from 1997.
But Jacob said he did not agree with funding the governor's proposed Bridge Scholarship from gaming revenue. The Bridge Scholarship is designed to fill the gaps left by the federal Hope Scholarship that offers $1,500 tax credits. The Bridge Scholarship would offer students in their first two years of college $1,500 a year and be funded from the same source that Jacob wants to use for his own proposed scholarship for higher education.
Funding the Bridge Scholarship from gaming revenue would cut into Jacob's potential funds significantly.
"I've been trying to get money for years," he said, "It doesn't grow on trees."