John Lamping: Missouri road tax proposal is a cynical grab by special interests

07/29/2014 5:21 PM

07/29/2014 5:58 PM

There are so many bad things about Amendment 7. Any one of them is reason enough alone to vote no.

First, this would be the largest tax increase in Missouri’s state history. This proposal would increase our state sales tax by 17.75 percent to nearly 5 percent on all taxable purchases.

The increase, combined with existing local sales taxes, would place Missouri as the ninth highest combined state and local sales tax burden in the country.

St. Louis and Kansas City would have higher sales taxes than Chicago and New York.

The tax would raise $500 million dollars the first year and would grow over time, resulting in $6.1 billion in new taxes collected over the next 10 years. This will make our cities and our state less competitive.

Second, the tax is unfair.

For the first time in infrastructure taxation, we would not be implementing a “use” tax. Traditionally, roads have been paid for by fuel charges and tolls. It makes sense that those that use the roads should pay for the roads. While we have little in the way the way of tolls, Missouri has one of the country’s lowest per gallon gas and diesel tax rate.

Not only does this proposal not raise the use tax, it ensures by law that fuel taxes could not be increased! Even though truckers are 40 percent of interstate traffic and 60 percent of interstate wear and tear, their cost to use the roads would be unchanged.

Third, the tax is cynical. The proponents assume you’re not paying attention.

Over $3 million dollars will be spent on TV ads without mentioning the tax to convince 50.1 percent of those that vote on August 5 (turnout expected to be less than 15 percent of registered voters) to agree to raise their taxes.

But Missouri already had money for roads. This year’s General Assembly voted to reduce taxes beginning in 2017, and when ultimately phased in, would reduce taxes by $600 million a year, money that could have been used for infrastructure.

So, why not just redirect the $600 million to roads and not increase the sales tax? Recall this year’s tax cut calls for an 8.3 percent reduction in the state income tax rate over seven years. At the same time, it is a 50 percent tax cut for business organized as LLCs.

Many of the supporters of the sales tax — trucking companies, road builders, and materials suppliers — are organized as LLCs. So while they push for a $500 million tax increase for all Missourians, they can expect their state tax burden to fall by 50 percent over the next seven years.

Even many of those who publicly support the tax acknowledge its flaws and wish there was another way.

Others in support are being coerced with promises of bike paths and light rail. There is another way. Vote no and demand a better policy solution.

John Lamping of Ladue represents Missouri's 24th Senate District.

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