Steven Bernstetter

The state is currently considering a proposal to renew and extend the "Quality Jobs Act." This program provides tax incentives for businesses to create jobs in Missouri that pay above the county average and provide at least partial health care coverage. According to the Kansas City Star:

"The Economic Development Department credits the program with creating 12,438 jobs in Missouri in less than two years."

These are quality jobs that pay living wages, the kind of jobs Missouri so desparately needs. The proposal would increase the spending on these tax credits from 12 to 24 million, and extend the life of the program an additional ten years to 2028 from 2018. This program benefits businesses by allowing them to keep the withholding taxes from their employees paychecks. A recent amendment to the program would prohibit businesses knowingly employing illegal immigrants from receiving the credits. This change has drawn some fire because it would allegedly offer a financial incentive for businesses to discriminate against Missouri workers who, despite being here legally, might nonetheless look and sound like illegal aliens. This objection is rubbish.

The proposal, as is, does nothing to punish those who are already employing an illegal workforce, and as such would not adversly affect those businesses.  Rather, it offers a positive incentive for those companies to employ legal workers and to pay them well. The key phrase here is "knowingly employing illegals." Those companies who hired a worker and reasonably believed that person to be here legally would not be punished if that worker later turned out to in fact be illegal. This approach to managing the state's economy-offering positive incentives for desired behaviors without directly meddling in the labor market-is exactly what is needed for a healthy balance between the concerns of Missouri's businesses and Missouri's legal workers. On those grounds, the "Quality Jobs Act" should be renewed and expanded with great vigor.

About the Author

Steven Bernstetter