Missouri lawmakers this week should allow Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes on two controversial issues to stand.
To do otherwise in one instance would empower employers and insurers to wantonly deny coverage for contraceptives. A veto override in the other instance could unfairly force a retroactive tax on a significant number of Missourians who purchased motor vehicles and boats with the understanding they would not be charged a use tax.
A taxing quandary
A longtime practice of counties treating use tax purchases on vehicles as though they were the same as sales tax purchases was upended in March. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state law doesn’t clearly permit counties to apply a sales tax to vehicles purchased out of state. Counties must have a separate use tax on the books in order to tax purchasers of out-of-state vehicles, the court said.
That decision was a blow to the majority of Missouri counties, including Jackson County, which have no separate use tax and stand to lose about one-fifth of the revenue they collect on motor vehicle sales.
The Missouri Budget Project, a group that is working for more revenue and better services in Missouri government, estimates that Jackson County could lose $1.8 million a year and St. Louis County more than $6 million.
Clay, Platte and Cass counties have separate use taxes, as does the city of Kansas City.
Legislators did the right thing in May when they passed a bill clearing up confusion in the existing statute and allowing local sales taxes on vehicle purchases to be applied regardless of the location of the sale. To exempt out-of-state purchases is a burden for local governments and a competitive disadvantage to Missouri businesses.
Unfortunately, the bill, passed in haste, fails to exempt about 122,000 Missourians who purchased a vehicle out-of-state after the Supreme Court ruling took effect. Should the law be allowed to stand, they could have to pay the tax retroactively.
That would be unfair and perhaps unconstitutional — reasons Nixon cited for vetoing the bill. While we fully support the move to restore the authority of counties to collect the money, the retroactive payments are a fatal flaw in House Bill 1329.
The legislature must solve this quandary by writing a new bill, and as quickly into the start of the 2013 session as possible. But, in fairness to citizens who purchased vehicles with the expectation that they would be exempt from a tax, lawmakers should let Nixon’s veto of House Bill 1329 stand, and consider a one-time compensation to counties that will have to bear the brunt of mistakes written into the bill.
Nixon had good reasons to veto the bill that would limit insurance benefits for contraceptive coverage.
The legislation goes too far in giving companies the right to cite “religious, moral or ethical” objections for refusing to pay for contraception, as well as sterilization and abortion services. That would create the potential for a wide range of questionable decisions by employers bent on making it difficult for women to enter and stay in the workforce.
Also, if a consumer does not want contraceptive coverage in an insurance package, she can make that choice. This is 2012, when it’s well established that the majority of Americans want affordable access to birth control. Contraceptive coverage should be available through insurance.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.