Observations: Hasty action is bad for all Missourians

June 24, 2014

in Local

SWO-webBy Pete Daniels, consulting editor

There haven’t been big, splashy headlines, nor clamorous television or radio news reports, but the fact is that Missouri’s Legislature apparently jumped off a cliff just before the most recent session ended and took small municipal governments with them.

As was reported in last week’s edition of The Sedalia Weekly Observer, our legislators, for whatever reason, approved a number of bills allowing for sales tax exemptions that could have a negative $351 million impact on city and county governments.

It was, apparently, a last-minute action and it prompted a telephone conference call from the governor’s office. City Administrator Gary Edwards and Pettis County Presiding Commissioner John Meehan participated.

Gov. Jay Nixon, we are told, is expected to veto some, if not all, of these bills. If he doesn’t, Sedalia could stand to lose as much as $1.4 million in sales tax revenue. That, coupled with other declines in revenue, means Sedalia could lose as much as 15 percent of its annual sales tax income.

As we reported last week, the “legislators did not have time to be thoroughly vetted nor … did they (the bills) have financial notes attached to them. In other words, their financial impact was unknown at the time of passage.”

In other words, our legislators went off half-cocked, as they say, because they didn’t bother to find out what results of their actions would have. You might ask: Is that a reasonable way to proceed?

While it was encouraging to learn that the governor plans to veto these bills, the Legislature could still come back in September and over-ride the governor’s action. That’s a sobering thought.

Edwards noted that the Missouri Municipal League is concerned about what the Legislature did “and is asking that the governor veto these sales tax exemptions.”

You’ve probably already come to the conslusion that this legislative action doesn’t take individual Missouri tax payers into account, but that really won’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Still, you have to wonder why such legislation could gain approval without a complete understanding of what the results would be. What was the urgency? Why not wait until all the information was available before passage. Were there some critical political issues involved that we know nothing about?

The possibility of Sedalia losing 15 percent of its tax revenue each year is, as one source noted, devastating. And Meehan had another interesting point: Local voters gave their approval to sales tax levels, as we know.

So, “what gives them (legislators) the right to come back and say, ‘we’re going to change the rules now’,” Meehan said. And he’s right.

So, what’s to be done? Missourians, including the folks living in Pettis County, should take a few minutes and contact their representatives to let them know they’re against this idea. Let them understand that this business of approving bills without understanding their impact has to stop, and now.

Of course, you can’t be certain they’ll pay attention, but the simple fact is that should your views be ignored, you can take action the next time these folks come up for election. Just remember, we selected them to go to Jefferson City to represent us and our interests. The governor’s conference call is evidence enough that this simple fact is lost among some of our representatives.

Again, if you have an opinion or comment on this issue, contact us at sedaliaobserver@gmail.com, write to us at Sedalia Weekly Observer, 2700 West Broadway, Suite 10, Sedalia, Mo., 65301, including your name, address and telephone number in order for us to verify that you are the sender. Or, you could drop your message off at the office.

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