New Laws Mean More Tax Breaks for Small Businesses, Oversight for Charter Schools

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COLUMBIA - Missouri small businesses will receive tax breaks, while charter schools will be subject to increased oversight, according to two bills signed into law Wednesday by Governor Jay Nixon. The governor also vetoed a bill that could have made it easier for some students to transfer to other districts.

House bill 1661 provides a targeted tax deduction for state small businesses that create jobs over the next two years. Small businesses can receive a $10,000 tax break for each new qualifying job they create.

To qualify for the tax break:

  • Businesses must have 50 employees or fewer
  • Each job created must pay at least the average county or state wage - whichever is lower
  • Created jobs must employ the workers for at least 52 weeks

Business owners can also receive a $20,000 tax deduction if the new job offers health insurance and the employer pays at least 50 percent of the premium.

The tax break comes after CNN-Money rated Missouri as the nation's sixth-best state for new business start-ups. Missouri was the only Midwestern state in the rankings. The state's unemployment rate is currently at a 41-month low, while state exports are up 15.4 percent to date over 2011.

Nixon signed Senate Bill 576 Wednesday night. The bill puts tougher standards on sponsors of charter schools, and gave the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) greater oversight to make sure sponsors and charter schools meet certain academic and financial standards.

Some of the provisions in the bill include:

  • Starting in August, prospective sponsors of charter schools will go through an application and approval process with the DESE
  • Sponsors will enter legally-binding performance contracts with their chartered schools; the contract sets performance measures that must be met, or the schools risk probation or even closure
  • If a school fails to meet those specific performance standards, the sponsor must intervene
  • Beginning in October, DESE will identify charter schools that are experiencing financial stress and report them to the Governor and General Assembly
  • DESE will have authority to withhold funding until there is compliance with the requirements

The provisions also provide a clear framework to allow expansion of charter schools in other parts of the state.

Nixon vetoed House Bill 1789, which could have made it easier for students living in St. Albans, St. Elizabeth, and Gravois Mills to transfer school districts. Existing law already establishes a reasoned process through which a student can be reassigned to another district if the Commissioner of Education determines that the student faces an "unreasonable transportation hardship."

The bill would have deviated from that process in those three communities and eliminated the Commissioner's discretion. The new law would not have required students in those communities to prove a transportation hardship in order to be reassigned to another school district. In a press release, Nixon said the law would have imposed an "unfunded mandate on some rural school districts".