State Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, is stepping down.
The office of Gov. Eric Greitens announced Monday that the governor has appointed Kraus to the State Tax Commission and said he was taking the new position effective immediately, though at some point that requires approval by the state Senate.
Also Monday, the secretary of state’s office announced that a special election to fill the seat will be held Nov. 7. Kraus represented District 8, which includes Blue Springs, Grain Valley and much of Lee’s Summit.
Three state representatives from the area – Jeanie Lauer of Blue Springs, Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit and Gary Cross of Lee’s Summit – have all filed papers with the Missouri Ethics Commission signaling their intent to run in the August 2018 Republican primary in the 8th District, as has Democrat Hillary Shields of Lee’s Summit. It was unclear Monday which of those four, or others, might run this November in the special election.
Kraus, facing term limits, was headed into his last year in the Senate. He was elected to the first of three terms in the House in 2004 and the first of two terms in the Senate in 2010. He ran for Missouri secretary of state last year but lost in the Republican primary to Jay Ashcroft. He’s also been in the Army and National Guard for 25 years, serving as platoon leader and a ground convoy commander in Iraq in 2003. He’s a helicopter pilot and last year became certified to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Kraus, 44, joins former state Sen. Victor Callahan, a Democrat from Independence, on the tax commission, as well as Bruce E. Davis, the commission’s chairman. The 2015-16 Official Manual of the State of Missouri lists salaries for Callahan and Davis at $106,620 each.
Kraus was unavailable for comment Monday. In a press release, a statement attributed to Kraus said the position on the tax commission “aligns with my legislative experience and affords me the opportunity to continue my lifetime commitment to service.”
The senator has largely focused on taxes in the General Assembly and has been critical of the Department of Revenue for what he sees as its overly broad interpretations of the law on collecting revenue.
Last year he got a bill passed to make clear that services such as classes are not subject to the sales tax. This year he followed up with a bill, signed a few weeks ago, exempting deliveries of such things as food and flowers, from the sales tax.
He sponsored a bill, now taking effect over the next several years, cutting the state’s income tax. Critics point out each of the five phased-in cuts will cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually. That bill was passed after another Kraus bill cut corporate income taxes, resulting in a drop in state revenue of $155 million in fiscal 2016, more than 10 times the official estimate by legislative analysts at the time it was passed. He also sponsored a bill, which did not get far in the legislature this year, to phase out the corporate income tax entirely.
Kraus also promoted getting the state’s new voter ID law on the ballot last November; voters approved it. He opposed plans for a prescription drug monitoring program to fight the opioid epidemic and plans to get Missouri in line with federal anti-terrorism rules on drivers licenses, saying both impinged on privacy rights. He opposed bills sponsored by fellow Republicans Lauer and others to let local voters approve plans to upgrade 911 service and shift payment for that away from landline taxes.