Foes consider referendum drive on Missouri tax cut

Thursday, May 22, 2014 | 10:55 a.m. CDT; updated 12:05 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 22, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — Some opponents of a Missouri income tax cut say they are weighing whether to pursue a referendum petition that would put the issue before voters.

The Republican-led Legislature enacted the tax cut earlier this month by overriding a veto of Gov. Jay Nixon. The measure would gradually reduce Missouri's top individual income tax rate and phase in a new business income deduction starting in 2017, as long as state revenues keep growing.

The Kansas City Star reports that some foes aren't ready to give up the fight. The Missouri Budget Project, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that analyzes fiscal issues for their effect on the poor, has raised the possibility of pursuing a referendum.

"No decision has been made, but the ramifications of this tax proposal would be so devastating that we are actively looking at every possible option to stop it," said Jay Hardenbrook, public policy director for the Missouri Budget Project.

The income tax cut is projected to eventually reduce state revenues by $620 million annually, and opponents have raised concerns that it could result in less spending on schools.

Referendum supporters have 90 days to submit a little less than 100,000 voter signatures on a petition to refer a measure passed by the Missouri Legislature to the ballot.

The referendum has been used just three times since 1950 to challenge actions of the Legislature, according to researchers at the state archives. The last time was in 1982, when a law permitting bigger trucks on Missouri highways was overruled by voters.

Members of Coalition for Missouri's Future, consisting of education groups, labor unions and others who have opposed the income tax cut, would decide whether to pursue a referendum, Hardenbrook said.

The coalition has not met to discussion the potential referendum, said Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards' Association.

"We think it's worth exploring all the options that might be available to us, including letting the people decide if this is the path they want to take for our state," Ghan told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

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