Missouri politicians who espouse a “no new taxes” philosophy are facing some economic realities. The cost of running the state is outpacing the income provided to do the job.
So, in an effort to respond to that crisis while still holding tight to their anti-tax positions, Missouri legislators have turned instead to raising fees.
The rationale is simple. Just ask House Speaker Tim Jones. “These are fees that are specific to the items that are delineated. They’re not any sort of tax increase on all Missourians.”
You get what you pay for.
Based on bills passed and now waiting for the governor’s signature, if you drive a car, you will pay $5 more to renew your license and $1.50 more for vehicle tags. If you get a speeding ticket, you will pay more to pay it — that is, the fee to simply mail in your fine will increase by as much as $10.
If you need your propane meter inspected, that will be another $65. Or if you need a copy of your medical records, you will pay an extra 53 cents per page. Court transcripts will now cost another $3.50.
We have been told that the private contractors who now handle our driver license offices aren’t making enough money off the current fees to make ends meet.
The Missouri Sheriffs’ Association says federal funding is dwindling, so it needs more money to help finance the state’s computerized system that tracks criminal activity.
Some of the fees would be dedicated to mental health, drug and veterans treatment courts. Some would fund court systems and courthouse renovations.
In other words, everyone needs more money to do important and valuable work that the citizens of Missouri need and expect.
But, the fees would be paid directly by the people who use the service, is Jones’ defense. It’s not a tax.
That is a cop-out.
Just like in every household in Missouri, the cost of running the state is rising. There are important programs and services that we need to finance for the good of everyone in the state. Even those who don’t drive a car benefit from the fact that those who do are licensed. Even those who don’t heat with propane benefit when their neighbor’s propane tank is safe.
Fees can provide needed income, and we agree that some are necessary.
But we also agree that fees are a different type of tax. Increased fees equal increased taxation.
Springfield’s legislators are split over support of the fees for various legitimate reasons, but we agree with Charlie Norr, the only Democrat among them.
“It may look like a fee and it may walk like a fee. But, trust me, folks, it’s a tax.”
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.