Missouri House approves 'stacked taxes' bill

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — If the leaders of Missouri's cities now want to increase the sales tax for general purposes and capital improvements, they let the voters decide, the Missouri House of Representatives said Tuesday.

With a crushing majority, the House passed the bill by a 132-19 vote. The bill, proposed by Rep. Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, would allow Missouri cities to maintain voter-approved general sales and capital improvement sales tax increases — called "stacked taxes" — and impose new ones in the future as long as local voters are on board. This bill will raise the amount that the city is allowed to impose from 1 percent for capital improvements and 2 percent for general purposes. The caps used to be 1/2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Stacked taxes became an issue when Farmington lawyer and former state Rep. Tom Burcham, R-Farmington, brought lawsuits against Missouri cities for imposing more local taxes than what the current state statute allows. Burcham claimed victory in lawsuits against Missouri cities Iberia and Purdy.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he supported the bill's original language, and he offered an amendment to the bill that would allow the city of Ashland to impose a lodging tax.

Sen. Kurt Schafer, R-Columbia, proposed a bill last year that would have allowed the city to impose such a tax.

Members of both parties, including House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, co-sponsored proposed similar legislation last year. A committee passed the bill, but it was blocked from a vote on the floor by House Majority Leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville.

This time around, Tilley approved the measure. But another Republican leader in the House, Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs, cast one of the dissenting votes against the bill. He said the economic recession made it a bad time to raise taxes, and cities have broken the law by imposing stacked taxes despite current state statutes.

"Now we're asking the General Assembly to bless their bad behavior," Pratt said.

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

The only Democrat to vote against the bill, Rep. Jake Zimmerman, D-St. Louis County, said he opposed lodging taxes added to the bill as amendments. He said if the bill had retained its original language, it would have been "easier to support."

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