Note: Technical limitations are preventing this week’s program from being available directly on the website. If you want to watch or download the program, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/oa1z8mkvzqex0ad/840-1-MOViewsTransTax2014.mp4
by Mike Ferguson
(Jefferson City, MO) – There’s a common saying in political and media circles that goes something like this: “politics makes strange bedfellows”.
Meaning, the issues of the next election can determine your friends in the campaign. Sometimes, that means a temporary rearrangement of alliances.
That’s the case with Amendment Seven, a proposed change to the Missouri State Constitution that’s on the August 5th ballot.
Here’s the text you’ll see on the ballot:
“Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?
“This change is expected to produce $480 million annually to the state’s Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund and $54 million for local governments. Increases in the gas tax will be prohibited. This revenue shall only be used for transportation purposes and cannot be diverted for other uses.”
In other words, should we raise the sales tax to improve our transportation infrastructure?
Both sides agree on some aspects of the debate. Roads and bridges aren’t built overnight and our transportation infrastructure is both inadequate and deteriorating in several parts of the state. The question becomes one of funding.
Former Republican State Representative Jewell Patek is working on the campaign for the proposal. He points out that MODoT has covered thousands of miles of highways with safety upgrades like rumble strips, cables and guardrails and says the job is not done yet.
“There are, I think, roughly about 20,000 miles of roads in the State of Missouri that don’t have those life-saving measure on them and we simply don’t have adequate resources to continue those safety improvements.”
While the Republicans in the Missouri Legislature has worked to reduce other taxes and typically oppose increasing taxes, it’s a Democrat who is speaking out against this one. Former State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford is now the Executive Director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare and she says the idea will hit Missouri’s poorest the hardest and, in her view, that’s not fair.
“Putting extra taxes on clothing for your children, on school supplies, on your laundry detergent, on a whole variety of materials will be very harmful for families that are struggling to make it.”
Mott Oxford also takes issue with the idea this is a “temporary” tax and a small one. Under the proposal, voters would have to decide to end the tax in ten years for it to actually expire.
She wants voters to see the size of the tax increase from a perspective that may not always be considered.
“It says it’s a three-quarters of one cent increase and that may lead some people to believe it’s a very small increase, but when you compare it to the current sales tax – which is a little over four percent – this three-quarters of a cent is actually around an eighteen percent increase in sales tax.”
Many Republicans, on the other hand, are pushing for this tax plan, saying some kind of action must be taken now. The GOP-controlled Legislature put the plan on the ballot.
Patek argues that the sales tax will not be the burden on the poor that opponents claim because the tax increase would not apply to everything.
“We went to great lengths to exempt out the necessities of life. Again, our opponents would like people to believe that people are going to pay higher sales tax on groceries, rent, utilities, fuel…health care and those are specifically exempted from the measure.”
On the web:
Missouri Secretary of State’s Page On the 2014 Ballot Measures: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014ballot/
Missourians For Better Transportation Solutions (opposing Amendment Seven): http://www.votenoamendment7.com/
Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, Inc. (supporting Amendment Seven): http://fixmoroads.com/
Special thanks goes to Missouri Life magazine for providing generous support that allowed us to produce the show in Jefferson City, at the JCTV studios for this week.
Missouri Life: www.MissouriLife.com