A bill to restore a sales tax break on multi-vehicle trade-ins moved forward to the Missouri Senate on Wednesday, despite criticism about whom it truly benefits.

The Missouri House of Representatives convened to discuss House Bill 1, the subject of this week’s special session. Supporters of HB1 stressed it would erase any uncertainty surrounding a sales tax credit for vehicle trade-ins, while others called into question the motives behind it. The house voted 126-21 to pass the bill.

The Missouri Department of Revenue estimated that 14,000 annual transactions make use of the tax credit.

Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, the bill’s sponsor, said clarity would benefit Missourians from all backgrounds who are trying to buy better cars.

“It is up to us to make sure our language and our legislation is clear and concise so there is no more ambiguity, no more uncertainty for the people of our state, as to what the normal operating procedures should be,” Ruth said.

A similar bill was passed in the House during the 2017 regular session, but it died in the Senate.

House Democrats questioned who would benefit the most from the bill: individuals struggling to purchase a new vehicle or private businesses looking for tax breaks.

Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, who voted against the bill, said she worries that the bill is actually helping corporations and that it may take funding away from roads and bridges.

“If we make this just about individuals, like (Ruth) referenced, I would support this bill,” Unsicker said. “However, I believe this bill is, to a substantial extent, corporate welfare.”

Unsicker was not the only member concerned with large businesses receiving tax breaks as a result of HB1.

Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, introduced an amendment to limit the tax credit to individuals and private businesses with 12 employees or less. A similar amendment was shot down during the bill’s hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday.

Some Republican representatives challenged the amendment for not distinguishing between full-time and part-time employees and limiting potential businesses that would benefit from the tax credits.

“Twelve employees — I don’t see that as a large corporation. I see that as somebody who has taken advantage of the opportunity that the government here has given them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon, said.

The amendment was ultimately voted down.

All of Boone County’s representatives voted for the bill, including Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, and Martha Stevens, D-Columbia. In total, 21 Democrats voted for the bill.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said she wasn’t surprised that so many members of her party voted for the bill.

“Our issue has not been with this specific bill itself,” Quade said in a press conference after the session. “It’s been the fact that we’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on an issue that is not an emergency when we have true emergencies that we should be dealing with.”

Democrats previously called on Parson to include legislation on gun violence in the special session, which he declined to do.

Two Republicans voted no: Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, and Jeff Pogue, R-Salem.

Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, and Bill Falkner, R-St. Joseph, both voted pass. Seven representatives were absent and seven seats are currently vacant.

The special session was scheduled to coincide with a veto session, which the House also held Wednesday. In July, Parson vetoed two bills, House Bills 399 and 477, but the House didn’t overturn either one.

Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.

  • State Government reporter, fall 2019. I am a first year graduate student studying international journalism. You can reach me at mneasley@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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