The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 9, 2013

Lawmaker wants to end daylight saving time

Senate considering raising sales tax but cutting income tax

By Eli Yokley
Globe Staff Writer

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.

Tax reform?

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.