I am excited to announce that my legislative office for the 2019 legislative session is open and ready to serve residents of the 155th House District. I am eager to get to work for the people of the 155th District. Whether it is an issue you need help navigating, or an idea to help simplify government, I am ready to listen.
I would also like to note that Sandy Schanzmeyer, who has served the 155th district for many years, has retired. I wish to thank Sandy for her great service to the 155th and to congratulate her on a well-earned retirement. This transition has been very smooth as I have been blessed to have JaCinda Martin join me as the new legislative assistant, the primary point of contact for our district. JaCinda has years of service in the Capitol building and a detailed knowledge of the political process. She has a strong reputation in the building as someone who provides outstanding customer service and is committed to helping constituents resolve their issues in a friendly and timely fashion.
I’m thrilled to have JaCinda as part of the office and I know the people of our district are going to be impressed with her professionalism and her kind-hearted nature. She is one of a kind, and someone who is completely devoted to helping people who need assistance. She has been an outstanding assistant to the previous House members she has worked for, and I know she is going to be a true asset to my office and to our district.
I was first elected to serve the 155th District in the Missouri House of Representatives in November 2018. The 155th District encompasses Douglas, Ozark and eastern Taney County. My office is located on the fourth floor of the State Capitol in room 400-CB. Constituents can reach me by phone at 573-751-2042 or by email at Karla.Eslinger@house.mo.gov. Constituents can view legislative updates and subscribe to news updates by visiting https://house.mo.gov/MemberDetails.aspx?year=2019&district=155.
I will be sending out a weekly Capitol Report to keep you updated on legislation that is moving through the Capitol. This week the House Budget Committee spent time 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.
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.
Lawmakers said they 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.