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Congratulations to the Meramac Regional Planning Commission who celebrated their 50th anniversary this week. I enjoyed stopping by their office to celebrate with them and to visit with them about all the things they do to make our area a better place to live.

I had a great lunch and conversation today at the Ellington Senior Center. It is always an enjoyable time visiting with all my friends there. Believe it or not, the main topic of conservation, just as it seems to be everywhere I go, was ferrel hogs! After lunch, I attended the Ellington Chamber meeting and was almost overwhelmed with all the event planning they had going on. I know everyone appreciates all the hard work this Chamber does for their community.

Congratulations to all our boys’ and girls’ teams who participated in the Black River League tournament last week. A big shout out to Lesterville varsity boys for winning first place in an exciting game against Ellington who secured second. South Iron captured the third place trophy. Ellington girls beat South Iron to win the girls tournament title. Its been an exciting season with so much area competition.

The first bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives for the 2019 session is meant to honor one of the state’s most dedicated public servants. House members gave overwhelming support this week to a bill that would name a section of road in St. Louis County as the Cloria Brown Memorial Highway. Brown, who worked tirelessly as a state representative to help some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, passed away in March of 2018 during her third term in office.

The legislation that now moves to the Senate for consideration would name a section of South Lindbergh Boulevard from Interstate 55 to Lin Ferry Drive in her honor. The section of road runs past the cemetery at St. Johns Evangelical United Church of Christ where Brown was laid to rest.

Rep. Brown was a tireless advocate in raising awareness of the Human Trafficking epidemic in Missouri. Missouri currently ranks 14th in the nation for most reported human trafficking cases. Nationally, this is $9.5 Billion industry. The Legislature has taken many important steps to combat this in recent years. This past week the General Laws committee began working on a bill that adds additional protections of children from sex trafficking. We must do everything we can to stop this growing epidemic.

Members of the House Budget Committee spent time this week questioning the Missouri Department of Revenue about issues that could result in thousands of Missourians receiving a smaller than expected tax refund, or even owing a small amount in taxes to the state. Committee members learned that two issues have led to many Missourians not withholding enough from their paychecks, which has in turn caused state revenues to fall behind and create a more than $500 million budget hole.

The first issue is an error in the state’s withholding formula that has actually existed for 15 years. The problem was amplified this year by the second issue, which are the changes made by the 2017 federal tax reforms. The federal changes have created what is referred to as a “new normal” when it comes to the deductions Missourians claim on their W-4 forms, which determines the amount with each paycheck. Because many Missourians didn’t make adjustments to their W-4’s after the federal change, they could now have an “April surprise” when they do their returns and I’m not sure this will be a pleasant surprise.

The issues first surfaced when state revenues began to dip and House budget leaders contacted the department with concerns about a potential error in their formula. Department officials began poring through data and the withholding tables used by employers to approximate how much state income tax employees should have withheld from each paycheck. In doing so, the error was eventually revealed. It was quickly pointed out that the error didn’t change a single Missourian’s tax liability, but impacted the size of refunds if they anticipated receiving a tax refund check.

During the hearing, Budget Committee members were very critical of the department’s failure to properly communicate the issue with Missouri taxpayers. Members of the committee said the department should have done a better job in publicizing the error with the state-formulated withholding tables in an effort to avoid any surprise bills for taxpayers.

We are focused now on determining the impact the two issues will have on Missouri taxpayers, and communicating this information with Missourians so they are less surprised when they do their tax returns this year. Revenue department officials also remain optimistic that once the tax season moves forward, revenues will catch up with the growth that was anticipated and the $500 million shortfall will be eliminated.

The House Budget Committee will continue to monitor the situation closely and plans to hold an additional hearing next week to obtain more information.

Congratulations to Darin Haggett from Patterson who was named Missouri Professional Driver of the month. Darin has driven professionally for over 1.75 million miles!

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or suggestions you might have. As your Representative I am here to assist you however I can. I can be reached by email at Chris.Dinkins@house.mo.gov or by phone at 573-751-2112.

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