Government Relations Update 4/07/2010

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Kristi Smith Wyatt, Chamber Interim President and Senior Vice President, Government Relations & Policy Development

Chairwoman Surbaugh talks budget, transportation at State of the County Luncheon

Last week, Annabeth Surbaugh, chairwoman of the Johnson County Commission, presented her annual “state of the county” address to more than 500 people at the Ritz Charles. The Chairwoman recognized the effect the economy is having on Johnson County’s budget and said that while Johnson County is recognized as affluent, the recession is forcing many families to face financial hardship and causing the county to dip into their reserves to help with more basic services. Cuts in workforce, as well as reductions in services, could result if the economy doesn’t turn around.  Despite the recession, Chairwoman Surbaugh said the county can boast about having the lowest mill levies in Kansas, the most residents in any county in Kansas, and a AAA bond rating for the third year in a row.  She also touted the county’s green efforts, which have been demonstrated by building more LEED certified buildings and using alternative energy sources.

In addition, she spoke about transportation needs within the county, including a state House bill allowing transit buses to drive on highway shoulders during rush hour, thus alleviating congestion.
Read more about her “state of the county” address at:
http://www.kansascity.com/2010/03/30/1846595/surbaugh-sees-difficult-financial.html#ixzz0kKqzRweC

Sen. McCaskill talks to young KC leaders

Pair a group of opinionated, civic-minded leaders with one of the region’s most sought-after elected officials, and you’re sure to get some lively discussion. That’s exactly what happened when U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) addressed questions from members of The Chamber’s Centurions Leadership Program last Wednesday afternoon. KC SmartPort President Chris Gutierrez, Centurions Class of 2007, introduced the Senator to the group. The passage of the health care bill was a hot topic, and Senator McCaskill said she was pleased with the legislature’s ability to reform the system without supporting earmarks such as the Cornhusker Kickback. Other questions covered a wide range of topics, including cap-and-trade legislation, economic policy, and rail travel, reflecting the diverse group of interests within the Centurions program. As a Centurions alumna myself, I valued our group’s opportunity to speak candidly with a senator who has done so much for Greater Kansas City.

Chamber discusses Economic Development, Ethics, and Earnings Tax

The last meeting of The Chamber’s Missouri State Affairs Committee focused on three major issues: economic development, ethics, and earnings tax  Representative Tim Flook (R-Liberty), Chairman of the House Job Creation and Economic Development Committee, briefed the committee on a variety of issues but focused on economic development.  He stated that this year the Senate would be responsible for drafting economic development legislation, which has now taken the form of SB 875, sponsored by Senator Tom Dempsey.  The bill includes the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), Missouri Jobs for the Future (MO-JFF), and more. The “more” is what seems to have stirred several Capitol regulars, as it contains rather controversial provisions relating to tax credit reform. **Update**

The bill has currently been returned to the Senate calendar, and there is talk again about a tax credit debate holding up progress in the Senate, as it did last year. Representatives Flook and Kander could not talk about economic development without addressing the dire budget situation. Both remarked that programs would be cut. However, those cuts need to be well thought out by our leaders. 

Representative Kander provided comments on recent efforts on ethics reform. Representatives Kander and Flook have been on the forefront of the ethics reform battle by co-sponsoring a piece of bipartisan legislation earlier in the session to add transparency to the Missouri system. Kander remarked Missouri state law is so much less stringent than federal law and that Missouri needs to measure up to at least this standard.   

Finally, Greg Williams with the City of Kansas City Missouri and Chamber staffer Jamie Green discussed the hotly contested repeal of the one-percent earnings tax. The City and Chamber, along with many other organizations in Kansas City, have been working together to fight this effort. The potential loss of Kansas City’s earnings tax could have a huge detrimental effect on Kansas City and its businesses. This effort has intensified, and main proponent of the repeal Rex Sinquefield has donated extremely large sums of money. Petition gatherers continue to work throughout the state to gather enough signatures.

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