Yesterday, I wrote about the legal opinion the Cole County Circuit Court signed regarding the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act (MTRA). In They Are Called “Legal OPINIONS” for a Reason! (Part I), I revealed that it appears the judge had simply signed the order submitted by the opposing counsel, typos and all. This is a practice long held in disdain by higher courts. For example, the Missouri Supreme Court opined that:
“58. For obvious reasons, when a court adopts in its entirety the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law of one of the parties, there may be a problem with the appearance. The judiciary is not and should not be a rubber-stamp for anyone.” (State v. Griffin, 848 S.W.2d 464,472 (Mo.banc 1993))
In my previous posting, I also debunked the allegation that the model used by Let Voters Decide was not credible. Today, I am going to address one of the more preposterous notions in the order.
One of the most inane points of the judgment handed down is the thought that the legislature would not replace the revenue from the individual income tax or revamp the sales tax. While some might question the legislature’s observance of constitutional matters, I can tell you from personal experience that the legislature does not knowingly violate the constitution. Statute, yes; Constitution – no!
The initiative petitions contain a very specific mandate on the legislature:
Section 1(e).(1) The general assembly shall enact a law, effective January 1, 2014, imposing and levying a tax on all sales and services, except those sales and services exempted pursuant to Section 1(f) of this article,… (emphasis added)
It’s amazing to me that a judge who, to my knowledge, has never served in the Missouri legislature and an attorney who, to my knowledge, has also never served in the Missouri legislature (or held any elected position), would believe that the legislature would not follow the mandates of the Constitution. It’s simply preposterous to think that would be the case.
Nowhere is this lack of experience more clearly demonstrated than in the jointly issued opinion that indicates the belief that the various state agency inputs should be accepted on their face as their reason for declaring the MTRA model not credible. If the judge and opposing attorney had legislative experience, they would know that agency inputs on fiscal notes are routinely biased and seldom given much weight because of that bias.
If we were to apply the logic used in the joint opinion of the judge and plaintiff’s attorney, the legislature could save a lot of money by simply not doing a lot of constitutionally mandated things.
For example, the legislature could simply not pay on the public debt. It wouldn’t make the bond holders happy, and it would ruin the state’s credit rating but, hey, according to the indication in the opinion of the aforementioned people, the legislature cannot be forced to do anything contained in the constitution that requires the enactment of a law.
The payment of the public debt, while required to be the first priority of the state in the constitution, requires a law be passed. That law is the first budget bill, House Bill 1 in the first regular session of any General Assembly. According to the logic of the opinion, the legislature could simply refuse to pass House Bill 1 and thus not pay the public debt. Think of all the money in other areas that could be saved!
It’s preposterous to make a claim that the legislature would somehow fail to take the action directed by the constitution. It’s even more preposterous to assume that even if they did take the mandated action that they would not do so in such a way as to generate enough revenue to continue funding the needs of the state.
The legislature is a political creature having to stand for election and re-election. For people who have never served in the legislature to opine that this in and of itself would not be a sufficient and reasonable course of action is simply ludicrous. It shows the opinion was itself more political than driven by facts or reality.
The way this opinion and conduct has occurred should concern the citizens of Missouri. The opponents of improving Missouri’s economic future by reforming the tax code have consistently attacked the largest donor to the effort as a billionaire or millionaire or whatever the current derogatory term of the day may be. They falsely assert that he will somehow gain gazillions from the passage of the measure. But what should really scare the citizens of Missouri most is that if an issue supported by a person of means can be given short shrift by the legal system – what does that mean for those of us without those means?
The state auditor has indicated that he plans to appeal the decision. Hopefully the folks at Let Voters Decide will also appeal. The people of Missouri deserve better than what they have gotten so far from their judicial system.