“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” is a famous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Elizabeth was so in love with her new husband that she wrote this poem for him. Recent legislation being considered by our lawmakers in Missouri makes me question how much they love us. Let me count the ways.
Count one is the pending approval in the House of Representatives for a 1 percent sales tax increase to raise additional funds for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The Missouri Senate passed SJR 16, and the tax increase has passed to the House of Representatives and is called HJR 23.
MoDOT claims it has lost revenue because less gas is being purchased and that means a drop in gasoline sales taxes. Actually, MoDOT has maxed out its credit card (Amendment 3 bonds) and now they have to pay back the bondholders. They want more of our money in the form of a sales tax increase that affects every consumer in Missouri. This is just another credit card they’ll max out, and we’ll be paying for it with higher taxes for many years to come.
Count two is the pending tax code change being considered by the Missouri Senate (SB 26). Modeled after what Kansas lawmakers did last year, this bill proposes to cut the personal income tax rate from 6 percent to 5.33 percent. That helps higher income taxpayers but does little or nothing for the majority of Missourians. To offset this loss of revenue, the bill raises the general state sales tax rate from 4 percent to 4.6 percent. Kansas chose not to raise the sales tax rate. Apparently, they are determined to cut costs and become more fiscally responsible while Missouri lawmakers just want the status-quo. This increase means higher sales taxes for every consumer in Missouri, which disproportionately affects lower and middle-income families.
Count three is the bill currently being debated in the U.S. Senate that will require online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes on all purchases made over the Internet. Supporters of the bill say this will make for a level playing field between the online retailers and the “brick and mortar” stores. Opponents claim it will create an accounting nightmare and complicated rules for the online retailers. Our lawmakers are looking at the revenue it will generate for their states. All of us should see it as another in the long, long list of taxes we must pay.
Count four is the Obama administration proposal to limit the pay increase for our military personnel to 1 percent in 2014. This will be the lowest increase in more than 50 years. I wonder why the government would even consider this type of “budget” cut when we don’t have a federal budget to begin with and have so much waste in many areas that isn’t being addressed. If the military does get the 1 percent pay increase, they can kiss it away here in Missouri since our lawmakers want 1.6 percent more in taxes for the general revenue and MoDOT.
How do we counter these actions by our lawmakers? By voting no in November to the 1 percent sales tax increase for MoDOT. By calling or writing to your senator or representative and telling them no to any higher taxes. By watching the voting records of our elected officials and remembering how they represented us when they ask for our votes again.
Fred H. Reiss is a resident of Urbana, Mo.