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Missouri Educators Fear Proposed State Sales Tax Would Mean Less Money For Schools

Grocery purchases, which the state does not currently tax, would be subject to FairTax. Photo Credit: 123rf


Petitions are circulating in Missouri this fall, and if enough registered voters sign, then the state will place the Missouri Income Tax Initiative — which supporters call the FairTax and opponents call the Everything Tax — on the ballot next November as a proposed constitutional amendment. If the initiative succeeds, then there would be an additional 10 or 11 percent tax on goods and services.

Fearing that the FairTax would further reduce state funding for public schools, a number of education associations this month joined with civic, business and labor organizations in founding the Coalition for Missouri’s Future to fight the ballot initiative.

Although supporters project FairTax would generate the same amount of revenue as the current state income tax, the Coalition claims it would decrease state revenues by $3.2 billion. According to Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who is required by state law to calculate the possible revenue impact of all issues placed on the state ballot, FairTax may increase revenues by up to $300 million or decrease them by up to $1.5 billion.

Of particular concern is the fact that Missouri sales tax revenues have been declining since 2009, so the FairTax would be applied to a shrinking revenue source. Although the state is required to use a percentage of its revenues — including sales tax revenue — to support public education, schools have not been fully funded since the start of the recession.

Petitioners hope to place the following language on the ballot next November:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • eliminate taxes paid by individuals based on income or earnings and sales and use taxes, including taxes paid by corporations and individuals, with certain exceptions;
  • require the legislature to impose an expanded state sales tax on all sales and services, and allow the legislature to increase taxes up to 5½% on purchases of food and 7% on other sales and services, with certain exceptions;
  • require that state and local cumulative sales tax rate not exceed 10%, with certain exceptions; and
  • provide for a real property tax credit for eligible homeowners?

Former state Lt. Governor William C. “Bill” Phelps directs the Missouri FairTax organization. And St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield — who spent $1 million on the petition drive to eliminate the Kansas City and St. Louis earnings taxes — is bankrolling an allied organization, Let Voters Decide. According to these supporters of the constitutional amendment, a flat sales tax would be more fair to everyone than the current income tax that allows people to pay differing amounts depending on the deductions they qualify for. However, opponents say the initiative will be of most benefit to wealthy people, who would no longer have to pay income tax and might not make enough purchases in the state to make up the difference.

Lists of FairTax and Let Voters Decide members are not available on their websites. The FairTax site simply says it “is comprised of approximately 12000 Missourians and interested individuals throughout the US.”

Members of the Coalition for Missouri’s Future include:

  • AARP Missouri
  • AFSCME Local 72
  • Branson Chamber of Commerce
  • Civic Council of Greater Kansas City
  • George K. Baum
  • Herschend Family Entertainment
  • Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis
  • League of Women Voters of Missouri
  • Missouri AARP
  • Missouri Association for Social Welfare
  • Missouri Association of CPAs
  • Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals
  • Missouri Association of School Administrators
  • Missouri Association of School Business Officials
  • Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Missouri Budget Project
  • Missouri Grocers Association
  • Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance
  • Missouri Healthcare Association
  • Missouri League of Women Voters
  • Missouri Municipal League
  • Missouri NEA
  • Missouri Realtors Association
  • Missouri School Boards Association
  • Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters
  • Missouri State Teachers Association
  • Missouri Women’s Political Caucus
  • Progress Missouri
  • PROMO
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  • Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce
  • Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice

In order to bring FairTax to a vote next November, supporters must circulate petitions and gather 146,907 signatures of registered voters, as required by state law. The deadline for submitting these signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office is 5 p.m., Sunday, May 6, 2012.

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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