Missouri’s 6 ballot issues: Hell Yes, Yes, No, No, Hell No, No

Vote for Amendment 1 to renew Missouri's needed state parks tax. ( Courtesy Citizens Committee for Soil, Water and State Parks)

Vote for Amendment 1 to renew Missouri’s needed state parks tax. ( Courtesy Citizens Committee for Soil, Water and State Parks)

Missouri voters will see five constitutional amendments and one proposition on their Nov. 8 ballots. They range from essential to “meh.”

Spoiler alert: Vote against both sham cigarette tax increase requests — Amendment 3 and Proposition A. Here’s my special report on these irresponsible issues, which have been receiving most of the media attention this fall.

Here are endorsements on the six issues; ballot language for all of them is here:

Constitutional Amendment 1: HELL YES

Missourians have excellent reasons to extend the one-tenth-cent sales tax for soil and water conservation, as well as for state parks and historic sites. This tax has been a wonderful asset for the Show-Me State.

The tax is helping to make sure Missouri’s parks system doesn’t fall into disrepair, as has happened to other public services offered by the state. The tax, first approved in 1984, raises about $90 million annually and would last another 10 years if approved.  That needs to happen.

Constitutional Amendment 2: YES

Voters get yet another chance to limit campaign contributions. Of course they should do so. Cash from millionaires flows into Missouri campaigns almost unregulated. Races are bought, or certainly appear to be.

Here are the problems: If the amendment is approved, it will be challenged in court. Ka-ching. That’s more money for the lawyers. And after decades of watching rich people such as St. Louis’ Rex Sinquefeld try to pull the political strings in Missouri, I fear they will figure out how to avoid this attempted restriction in the future.

Vote “yes,” but just don’t expect it to do much to really reduce the influence of money on political campaigns.

Constitutional Amendment 3: NO

This is the attempt to increase cigarette taxes by 60 cents a pack by 2020. It would go to fund the Early Childhood Health and Education Fund. Sounds great right? Alas, it’s backed by Big Tobacco — and opposed by all the health-related groups you would think would be for it. And by me.

Constitutional Amendment 4: NO

This is an unneeded attempt to prohibit state and local governments from imposing sales taxes on services that currently aren’t taxed. It’s being sold as a way to reduce government intrusion — as the “Taxpayer Protection Act.”

Examples of services that could never be taxed are day care, haircuts, dry cleaning, advertising and home services such as plumbing and lawn care.

This is an attempt by proponents to pick winners and losers: Tax him and her, not me, to pay for future public services. Don’t fall for it. As the official ballot language states: “Potential costs to state and local governmental entities are unknown, but could be significant. The proposal’s passage would impact governmental entity’s ability to revise their tax structures.”

Constitutional Amendment 6: HELL NO

This is the latest bid by state officials to impose unneeded voter ID restrictions on the people of Missouri. The official state summation points out this will cost taxpayers $2.1 million annually or more to provide some government-issued identification to people who don’t now have it.

Supporters of voter ID always talk about how they want to prohibit fraudulent voting — or as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach sneers as he backs ID measures in his state — stop “aliens” from voting. But research shows time after time that voter fraud is a myth.

Meanwhile, courts have found that voter ID laws — pushed almost exclusively by Republican legislatures such as those in Missouri and Kansas — are illegally trying to make it more difficult for certain people to register. Those are minorities, older people and younger people, many of which are in the Democratic camp.

Proposition A: NO

This is the wrong-headed attempt to increase cigarette taxes by a puny 23 cents a pack by 2021. It would go to fund transportation improvements. It has poison pills in it, including one that it would go out of effect if other cigarette taxes are ever requested. How absurd, as I note here.

82 Thoughts.

  1. Pubs are clueless on some common sense gun laws. Dems are clueless on voter ID. I love it in Kansas. Easier for poll workers to look at ID than having to listen to some diffcult spelling of names. Speed means less lines and voters not being turned away.

  2. You are wrong about Amendment 4.
    The so called Fair Tax idea that Rex has been trying to get passed would replace income tax with sales tax. To get the revenue the will need, the sales tax would be over 20 cents on the dollar. Their tax plann will also include services. Hair cuts, plumbers, grass care. DOR under Nixon started cracking down on dance schools and gymnastics centers and exercise places, telling them to start collecting sales tax.
    Amendment 4 is a good thing. Good for small business and takes a big chunk our of Rex’s proposal.

    • “Fair Tax” is an Orwellian turn of phrase that requires a tortured definition of “fair”. It assumes that the initial and the regular distribution of money is fair. “If the free market wills it, it must be fair.” It also assumes fairness dictates that everyone pay the same rate. Such is the logic of a child, and parents have to teach their children that the scales of justice are more complicated and nuanced than that.

      Besides, we have seen what a more modest sales tax increase in Kansas has done for spending habits near the state line. The winners have been Missouri businesses who charge less tax, and yet, while people are happy to pay the lower sales tax, they’re not rushing to move to Kansas to pay less income tax.

      A good write-up on the effectiveness of the Kansas tax cuts for growth was written yesterday here http://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/10/report-from-brownbackistan.html.

    • Thank you, Kathy, for commenting. I have heard this defense and do agree that Rex’s idea of a super-high sales tax is a bad thing. Then again, I also don’t think it will get very far, especially given how badly Kansas is doing with its lack of income tax revenue. I also do not like the fact that some people have to pay sales taxes and others don’t. Finally, if sales taxes ever were collected on services, that actually would depress the need to have a higher sales tax in the future because the current tax rate would be bringing in more money from a broader range of companies and services.

      • I can’t get behind sales tax on services. As a doctor I don’t want to have my patients pay a tax just to come see me.

  3. I’m brand new to twitter, and not at all sure that this is the appropriate place, but I cannot let your retirement from 32 wonderful, dedicated, and often inspired years at the Star go with expressing my appreciation, respect, and admiration. We’ve met several times over the years, mostly at the recycling center (though you’d have no reason to remember me), and I was so impressed that the man in the T shirt seemed to exude the same passion, kindness, common sense, and intelligence that your opinion pieces conveyed so beautifully. I stand in salute. Thank you for thirty-two years of daily gifts to the community.

    • Thank you very much Ed for the kind words. Had a good, long run at trying to stay informed about the KC area and trying to do my best to see how it could get better. Again, thanks for reaching out here.

  4. Note, however, that Amendment 2 WILL place restrictions on Union contributions but WON’T place any restrictions on Corporate contributions. It may sound good but this part of the amendment concerns me. Personally, I will vote NO.

  5. Regarding Amendment 4, the operative phrase is ‘that is not currently being taxed’. Consider the tax windfall for any services that currently do not even exist. Obviously some new services will appear at some point.

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  7. Really appreciated your Rotary presentation. And, thanks for being a supporter and proud parent for Raytown Quality Schools. I stopped watching Ruckus when you left. Now, I am having second thoughts about the Star. Guess I knew something was wrong when Blunt got the endorsement. Always appreciated your reporting and opinions. Unless it becomes unduly burdensome, please stay with the blog. KC needs you.

    • Thanks for the kinds comments. Sorry, just seeing them now. Plenty active trying to keep up with the last few days of these crazy campaigns. I always enjoy talking to the Raytown Rotary, a very good group.

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