The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 14, 2012

Our View: Veto not final decision

When he was president, Missouri native son Harry Truman used to say he wanted a “one-armed economist,” because he tired of hearing advice that ended with “but, on the other hand.”

One of those “on the other hand” things happened this week.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that, he said, would have imposed a new car tax on Missourians without a vote of the people.

The measure vetoed by the governor would have permitted the reinstatement of local sales taxes by cities and counties on vehicles purchased out of state. That is something that has occurred for years, until the practice was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court several months ago.

Members of the Missouri General Assembly passed the measure aimed at addressing court action at the urging of local governments, citing losses in tax revenue at a time they already were hurting for money. For example, the state estimated Joplin’s annual loss via the change at about $431,000. Other estimated local losses include: Carthage, $63,000; Neosho, nearly $70,000; Jasper County, $354,000 annually; Newton County, $177,000.

Nixon cited the unanimous decision by the court and said the bill would attempt to impose a new tax without a vote of the people. In fact, in jurisdictions that have voted against such a tax, the bill would impose a tax in direct conflict with the will of the voters.

That’s hard to argue.

But, on the other hand, the assessment normally referred to as a local use tax was a longstanding practice and a longstanding revenue source for counties and communities.

And there have been concerns raised by city and county officials that absence of the tax would drive local car buyers across state lines. The change, they say, is being advertised by car dealers in Kansas City, Kan., to the detriment of those businesses on the Missouri side of the border.

The same thing could happen here. We’re all in favor of shoppers getting the most for their dollar, but there is a component that’s easy to forget — local business means local jobs being filled by local people, supporting local families — hence, local communities. Those local businesses also are paying property taxes that support schools and other governments.

It’s the same argument that has been made, though not very effectively, about sales tax on purchases on the Internet. No one wants to pay them, understandably. But we need to remember that if we’re buying things from Timbuktu, it’s Timbuktu that gets the additional jobs, taxes and other benefits as a result.

Nixon also points out, correctly, that more than 90 cities and nearly half the counties in the state have voted to enact the tax.

In the wake of decisions by the court and the governor, more cities probably will follow suit. In fact, the proposal is on the Carl Junction city ballot in August.

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