JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
If a St. Joseph lawmaker has his way, this will be the last year Missourians have to “spring forward” with daylight saving time.
State Rep. Delus Johnson continued his crusade against the federal law by filing legislation that would end the twice-a-year process of setting clocks forward and then setting them back.
Currently, daylight saving time applies beginning at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March (today), when clocks are set forward one hour, until 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of November, when they are set back one hour.
Johnson’s legislation, House Bill 340, would make daylight saving time the new standard time. The bill calls for 20 other states to join a pact before the shift would be enacted.
The Republican lawmaker said it is something he is passionate about and intends to pursue. Johnson said his bill, which passed a House committee by a 9-3 vote, is likely to be debated on the House floor in the coming weeks.
“It is something I’ve always wondered why we’re doing,” he said last week. “It is a process I can’t comprehend why we’re doing twice a year based on century-old energy policies.”
Daylight saving time was enacted in the United States around the time of the First World War in an effort to cut down on coal consumption because by setting clocks forward for one hour it won’t get dark in the Midwest, for example, until about 9:30 p.m. rather than 8:30 p.m. The policy was more broadly enacted in the United States and other countries after the energy crisis in the 1970s.
The Missouri Senate on Wednesday passed a tax reform package that would cut rates on state income taxes but raise the state’s sales tax. The plan would be phased in over the next five years, cutting income taxes by 0.75 percent and raising sales taxes statewide by another half-percent.
Currently, the Missouri sales tax is 4.225 percent, distributed into four funds: general revenue, 3 percent; conservation, 0.125 percent; education, 1 percent; and parks and soils tax, 0.10 percent.
Cities and counties also impose local sales taxes.
When the income tax cuts are partially offset by the sales tax increases, the net effect could be a roughly $450 million reduction in state tax revenues, according to estimates from sponsoring state Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit. But the nonprofit Missouri Budget Project estimated that the Senate legislation could reduce tax revenues by $700 million when fully phased in.
Republicans hope the tax cut will spur economic growth — or at least keep businesses and residents from being lured across the state’s western border following Kansas tax cuts.
Democrats warned that the tax cuts could wreak havoc on Missouri’s budget, making it even more difficult for the state to provide money to its already underfunded public schools. Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, was among those who called the plan “irresponsible.”
Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, suggested Missouri should wait to see the effect of the Kansas tax cuts.
“It may turn out that Kansas decides it wasn’t such a good fiscal policy to decimate their revenue,” Holsman said.
A recently enacted Kansas law reduced individual income taxes, increased standard deductions and exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed to generate state revenues by eliminating income tax deductions for the mortgage interest and property taxes paid by homeowners. He also wants to cancel the scheduled expiration of a temporary sales tax increase.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, speaking in Jefferson City on Thursday, said he is opposed to raising consumption taxes as part of “some sort of experiment” using what supporters call the “fair tax” model.
“I don’t think we’re going to move our economy forward by raising taxes on seniors. ... I don’t think you build an economy by raising taxes on veterans,” Nixon said. “The economy doesn’t need a tax increase.”
Despite Nixon’s opposition, the bill could have a chance in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Speaker Tim Jones said he could support many parts of the bill, and he praised the shift toward taxes on consumption in lieu of taxes on income. The move is another in a series of steps between leaders of both chambers to appeal to conservatives, many of whom have long pushed the idea of a tax on consumed goods.
In the House, lawmakers also approved a $60 million tax credit package full of cuts for freight exporters, construction of data centers, and incentives to encourage technology companies to invest in Missouri. The package was supported by the entire Joplin-area delegation.
Gun sale controversy
A Southeast Missouri prosecutor joined Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder in Jefferson City on Tuesday to announce a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Revenue over its practice of collecting and scanning documents offered by Missourians applying for permits to carry concealed weapons.
Eric Griffin, a Stoddard County man, refused to let the local office of the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles scan his documents, including his birth certificate and proof of residency — a right his attorney and Kinder believe Griffin is allowed under Missouri law. Griffin was denied his permit for failing to comply.
While the particular case specifically deals with southeast Missouri, it could have statewide implications for other fee offices that gather data on gun sales.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by Russ Oliver, Stoddard County prosecuting attorney.
According to Oliver, the Department of Revenue has installed new computer equipment to record the information as part of the federal Real ID Act of 2005. But Kinder said state laws prohibit the department from retaining and collecting these types of documents and from complying with that portion of the federal law.
“There are important privacy concerns for concealed carry holders who justly fear their information being sent to a third party or the federal government,” Oliver said. “Missouri law makes it clear that what is going on here is illegal and serves no legitimate purpose, since the county sheriff is solely charged with the duty of determining applicants’ eligibility for the endorsement.”
Revenue Department spokesman Ted Farnen would only say the “department’s operations are not inconsistent with the statutory protocols.” He declined further comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Senate considering raising sales tax but cutting income tax
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
If a St. Joseph lawmaker has his way, this will be the last year Missourians have to “spring forward” with daylight saving time.
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Billions of dollars are on the line when Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday to consider Amendment 7.
The constitutional amendment, sent to the voters by the Legislature this year, would temporarily increase Missouri’s sales tax by three-quarters of 1 percent, raising an estimated $5.4 billion for the next decade to fund transportation projects. That includes more than $114.1 million in state funds for projects in Newton and Jasper counties, on top of additional revenue for localities that would be raised.
After the Missouri Department of Transportation downsized in recent years, these projects are now mostly designed and built by private engineers, contractors and laborers — many of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a campaign effort to sway voters to support the measure.
Last Monday — eight days ahead of the primary election day — supporters of the measure reported having raised more than $4.1 million for a campaign committee called Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which was established last fall to support the measure.
The International Union of Operating Engineers in St. Louis and Kansas City have contributed nearly $250,000 to the effort. That total was dwarfed by the $649,398 put in by the Industry Advancement Fund Heavy Constructors. Between its Missouri and Kansas companies, APAC — a construction contracting company that specializes in transportation projects — has contributed more than $150,000.
“The whole idea that money is flowing into the campaign, of course it is,” said Sen. John Lamping, a St. Louis Republican who is opposed to the measure. “It would be a smart business decision to do that.”
Lamping said the money pouring into the campaign supporting Amendment 7 is indicative of the financial gain the measure bodes for contractors and laborers.
Lamping proposed a measure in the Legislature that would redirect one-eighth of existing sales and use tax revenue directly to transportation projects, but he said that measure was rejected by legislative leaders. The coalition “didn’t hear about it,” the outgoing senator said, “because it was my idea instead of someone else’s idea.”
Lamping, who filibustered a similar measure in 2013, said Republicans have an ideological consistency problem on the issue. He pointed to the Legislature passing a sales tax increase only a few weeks after overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of an income tax cut that will largely help businesses organized as limited liability corporations, like many of the companies that could benefit from the measure. Lamping said that the tax increase will mostly affect taxpayers who did not get a significant tax cut.
“Who wants a tax cut in Missouri?” he said. “Businesses. (Republican leaders) wanted to make them happy and then they passed a tax cut. This is grand-scale special interest cronyism.”
The ad campaign being funded mostly by the business interests features paramedics and construction workers claiming the measure would “fix our roads and keep Missouri families safe.”
“We have a chance to give our highways and bridges the repairs they need,” says one ad, which is running in Joplin and statewide in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote. “We have a chance to fix what’s broken by voting yes on Amendment 7.”
The commercial uses a lot of words to talk about the benefits of the measure, but two words in particular are noticeably absent from the commercial: “Tax increase.”
“The ads don’t mention any of the ballot language,” said Jewell Patek, a spokesman for Missourians For Safe Transportation and New Jobs. “We figure Missourians will see the language when they go to the polls.”
Patek, a former state representative who now lobbies the Legislature, said he disagreed with Lamping’s notion that Amendment 7 is all about special interest gain.
“There’s quite a bit to gain for Missourians,” he said. “We have serious road needs. We’ll win or lose by the benefits in Amendment 7. I’m not sure I agree with Senator Lamping’s assessment.”
If approved, Amendment 7 would prevent an increase in the state’s fuel tax, a funding boost opponents of the amendment like Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some of the state’s social welfare groups have said would be more appropriate because it could pull in revenue from people who use the roads — like the state’s trucking industry.
The Missouri Truckers Association’s political action committee has contributed more than $27,000 to the effort to pass the measure. Tom Crawford, president of the association, said his members support the amendment because they see the problems on the road and deal with them every day. And passage of the measure does not mean anyone will stop paying fuel tax.
“We overpay our fair share on the fuel tax,” he said, pointing to statistics by the American Transportation Research Institute that show truckers have accounted for about 14 percent of road usage while paying for 39 percent of all taxes and fees owed by motorists. “We pay sales taxes just like everybody does on goods and products that people buy in the stores.”
Crawford said truck companies do not pay state sales taxes on the purchase of trucks, but they do pay a federal tax. “So, we won’t be impacted on new equipment purchase, but other areas of our business will be impacted just like every other taxpayer in the state will,” he said.
Thomas Shrout, who is helping lead the campaign against the tax hike, said that is not good enough and that Amendment 7 lets truck drivers off the hook. “Under Amendment 7, they wouldn’t have to pay any more,” he said.
Shrout’s opposition campaign has raised just over $27,000 — less than 1 percent of the total money raised by its supporters. They are targeting their opposition at the state’s urban core by spending money on direct mail and targeted robocalls in the final week.
“We think using the sales tax to fund road projects is poor policy for the state of Missouri,” he said. “It should be rejected.”
Shrout said the Missouri Department of Transportation and its supporters should go back to the drawing board and consider some of the other options like campaigning for toll roads or a gas tax increase — both based on road usage.
Representatives for APAC and the Heavy Constructors Association declined requests for comment.
Amendment 7 is one of five measures voters will consider when they head to the polls on Tuesday. Statewide, local election officials reported to the Missouri secretary of state that it was their estimate that about 27 percent of the state’s 4.06 million registered voters will show up to vote, including 25 percent of registered voters in Jasper County and 30 percent in Newton County.
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