Missourians across the state should be up in arms about what is taking place in the Cole County Circuit Court. The courts are supposed to be a safe haven for the adjudication of facts and legal matters. If the opinion released last Friday by the Cole County Circuit Court regarding the challenge of the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act (MTRA) petitions is an example of what we as citizens and taxpayers are receiving from our justice system, we are in far deeper trouble than we ever thought we were – and that is pretty deep!
The title of this blog post aptly reflects what the court did, as it merely reflected the opinion of the opposing counsel, typos and all. Unfortunately, the citizens of the state – who are paying for factual and legal balance in our courts – did not receive either in this case!
Case No. 11AC-CC00675 and Case No. 11AC-CC00676 both challenged the fiscal note summary of the MTRA petitions. They were consolidated and heard in the Cole County Circuit Court on March 22, 2012. I was there for the entire hearing. As a result, I was surprised that the judge decided to take the proposed order suggested by T. David Rogers’ attorney, since it did not represent the facts presented that day.
The court’s “ruling” ignored facts presented during the hearing and substantiated by documents that were entered into evidence. It also ignored the complete record submitted in some cases. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the opinion released was not so much that it didn’t change anything the attorney had submitted (including typos), but it contained a high level of personal attack not substantiated by the facts presented.
The inaccuracies and biases contained in the opinion are many in number We will be taking a look at just a few of these issues over several blog postings.
One of the areas about which the opposing counsel – er, I mean the court – was that the model used to develop the projections for the MTRA was not “credible.” This assertion was accepted, although facts were presented during the case that the MTRA model compared to the state’s “model” resulted in essentially the same outcome when making projections for the current baseline state revenues. If the model were not credible, this would not have been the case.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that the model used by the proponents of the MTRA is at least as credible as anything the state uses. I served on the Budget Committee the whole time I was in the House, including a stint as chairman. During my tenure as chairman, I was involved in battling the “model” the state used for projecting revenue. In fact, the model was so unreliable that I refused to agree with the Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE) used to develop the amount of revenue supposedly avaiable for budgeting.
This disagreement resulted in my hiring an outside economist to perform modeling of the state’s revenue history and apply that to future state revenue collections. This approach was very similar to that used to model the MTRA impacts. It, too, was subject to unwarranted cat-calls regarding its “credibility.”
This detailed analysis resulted in a 6% difference between what the “state” said we should expect to collect and what our model said we should expect. At that time, I had been in the legislature about three years. People attacked my numbers as not being “credible” – after all, people who had been doing these types of projections for years disputed my approach and results. Surely someone with supposedly little experience couldn’t possibly know more than these “experts.”
These same attacks are made upon Lucas Tomicki in the court’s opinion. In fact, the transcript will show the judge’s reaction when she found out Mr. Tomicki’s age. This was brought up again later when the plaintiff’s witness was sworn in. It seems that the misperception of “inexperience” due to age was, apparently, successfully created within the court.
So how did my brash inexperience flying in the face of the “experts” work out? Turns out that the “not so credible” model we used missed the actual revenue collections by .02%. This means the “experts” were 6.02% off, which was several hundreds of millions of dollars wrong! Even the Post-Dispatch had to acknowledge it!
I’ve looked at the MTRA model and believe it to be as credible as anything the state puts out. It’s too bad the judge didn’t take the time to study the evidence presented and come up with an opinion that reflected that evidence. One bright spot: Circuit Court judges get overturned frequently.