Next Wednesday, the Missouri General Assembly will meet in the constitutionally mandated veto session. One of the bills that will be considered for an override is House Bill (HB) 1329. You can read a number of blogs fully explaining why the General Assembly SHOULD NOT override the Governor’s veto here.
Many reasons are given for the “need” to override the Governor. Quite frankly, none of them hold water.
One reason given is that the bill is necessary to “level the playing field” for Missouri car dealers. HB 1329 contains a provision that was intended to retroactively collect the new tax from people who purchased vehicles since the court decision as part of that “leveling” process. The Not So Level Playing Field Tax Increase explains why this reason is no longer a valid consideration. (Hint: 89% of car purchases that would be subject to the new tax increase WERE NOT purchased from out-of-state dealers!) Interestingly enough, legislators are already talking about eliminating the retroactive portion of the bill if the Governor would agree to not tax people according to the provisions of the bill they want to override.
Another reason is that local governments need the funds from the tax increase or essential services like police and fire will be negatively impacted. The problem with this excuse is that it really doesn’t hold water. A municipal or county budget that is so dependent on this very specific tax increase is a budget that is built on a house of cards. Between property taxes and the majority source of sales taxes – which are not from the proposed tax increase – these governments have the ability to prioritize their spending to protect police and fire services. That is, they do unless they are just using it as a scare tactic to convince people otherwise.
The real solution to this “problem” is for local governments to do what they have always had the power to do – place a local use tax on the ballot and have their voters vote! Some of the cities and counties pounding on legislators to take this unconstitutional action have asked their voters to implement a local use tax and they said no. Why would the legislature want to override the will of their constituents and raise taxes without a vote?
An alternative to local governments not doing their job or not liking their voters answer is pretty simple. The General Assembly and the Governor could agree to place on a statewide ballot the approval of a local use tax. This would entail a provision that if the voters in any municipality or county said no, that local government entity would not be authorized to collect a local use tax. There would be no retroactive component and no blanket approval process.
The General Assembly should pass on creating a new local tax increase. Not only is it against the Missouri Constitution, it’s bad politics!