To me, the most galling proposal on the Aug. 5 ballot in Kansas City and across Missouri is the proposed 3/4-cent state-sales-tax increase for transportation.
Like a lot of tax-hike measures, it is tempting on the surface — $480 million annually for state transportation needs and $54 million a year for local road projects.
Projects to be financed — promised, anyway — include construction of a new Broadway Bridge in Kansas City and a third lane for I-70 between the outskirts of Kansas City and the outskirts of St. Louis.
The tax, if approved, would also direct about $14 million a year to the cost of expanded streetcar lines on Main, Independence Avenue and Linwood Boulevard and a MAX bus route on Prospect Avenue.
(If voters approve an expanded streetcar district Aug. 5, they would be asked later to approve a 1 percent sales-tax increase to finance the expansion. Because of the city’s agreement with the state, however, residents of the expanded streetcar district would pay only 1 percent more in sales taxes, instead of 1.75 percent more.)
Consider, first, that the main beneficiaries would be:
— The trucking industry, which is most responsible for tearing up the highways and roads
— The heavy construction industry, which excavates the dirt and rock, grades the land and builds the roads
— Engineering firms, which design and engineer the projects
— Material supply companies, like those that provide cement and asphalt
— The law firms that represent all the industries mentioned the above.
Under the name of a committee called Missourian for Safe Transportation and New Jobs, those special interests are going to pour several million dollars into their effort to pull the wool over the eyes of Missouri voters and convince them that a general sales tax is the best and only way to get better (and more) roads and bridges in Missouri.
It’s utter balderdash, I tell you.
A few points:
1) Implementing this tax increase requires amending the Missouri Constitution. Yes, amending the constitution! We would be voting to change the state constitution to allow the imposition — for the first time ever — of a general sales tax exclusively for transportation. I am no constitutional scholar, but amending the constitution to pave the way for a sales tax for better roads seems ridiculous. Four other proposed constitutional amendments are on the Aug. 5 ballot. They cover such areas as farming policies, gun rights and protecting electronic communications. It makes sense that they fall under the constitutional umbrella — but not a sales-tax increase for better roads.
2) The sales tax is the most regressive of all taxes. That is, it hits low-income people the hardest. Look at it this way: If a person with an annual income of $20,000 pays $1,000 in sales taxes in one year, the sales tax amounts to 5 percent of his or her income. But $1,000 in sales taxes on an income of $100,000 a year amounts to only 1 percent of income. Yes, people with higher incomes spend more than people in lower-income brackets, but in most cases the spending differential does not amount to a multiple of five times.
3) Missouri already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the country. The state currently charges a 4.225 percent statewide sales tax, while local governments add an average of 3.36 percent, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax-policy research organization based in Washington. The combined rate of 7.58 percent ranks Missouri 14th among all 50 states.
…The logical way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year to improve and add roads, highways and bridges is to raise the state gasoline tax.
The gas tax has stood at 17 cents a gallon (one of the lowest rates in the nation) since 1996.That’s almost 20 years! Raising it to 26 cents would generate an estimated $300 million more per year.
Hiking the gas tax is an entirely logical way to go because the more we use the highways and bridges, the more we should pay. And the more that Big Trucks tear up I-70, I-49 and our other interstates, roads and highways, the more they should pay.
But the trucking companies, the construction industry, the big engineering companies and the law firms that represent those industries want to stick this tax on all consumers, regardless of how much they use the roads.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has come out strongly against this proposal, and so has the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
To my astonishment, The Star this afternoon posted an editorial endorsing Amendment 7. Here’s the link.
The recommendations of Nixon and the Post-Dispatch are good, credible indicators, however, that Amendment 7 is a bad deal for Missouri taxpayers…On Aug. 5, let’s weigh in with a resounding “NO” vote on Constitutional Amendment No. 7.