"Socialism is coming!"
The radio-television personality, Glenn Beck, makes that statement. Beck offers that fusion conclusion of entertainment and information after the audio replay of ACORN's CEO Bertha Lewis saying, “If you are young, Democratic and a socialist, you are okay with me."
Socialism is coupled with taxation. If you understand that taxes take wealth from you and re-distribute what you have earned through work, savings and investments to others who did not, then you understand the coupling.
The citizens of Missouri believe that a degree of taxation is necessary and have empowered our part-time legislature, through the Missouri Constitution, to grant Missouri municipalities the ability to tax their citizens. These taxes include a local use tax, a general operating levy, a health, solid waste and museum levy, and a municipal utility gross receipts tax to name just four of the 19 categories.
Is this ability to tax meant to be limited? This is something every tax-paying Missouri citizen should ask. Answers differ, and the various arguments expose perspectives on taxation and the size and scope of government.
According to the Missouri Constitution, the limitation on local tax rates is “one dollar on the hundred dollars assessed valuation.” Apparently, municipalities in conjunction with the state Department of Revenue, take the view that tax greed is good! They maintain that as long as no single general revenue sales tax exceeds the one percent limitation, then multiples of taxes (tax-stacking) are acceptable, even if the cumulative total exceeds or is equal to one-percent.
The limitations encoded in our statutes are 1/2 of one-percent, 7/8 of one-percent or one-percent "if a majority of voters approve.” Pick one, and only one, is the clear, strict intent. Most Missourians would pick the smallest rate. After all, it is our wealth and wages, not the city or state governments.
The Farmington attorney, Tom Burcham, was not a citizens' hero when he sued several small cities for “tax stacking.” Burcham excluded his own city, for which he served as the city attorney. However, he exposed the advocates for more and larger government. These advocates are elected or hired by municipalites who intend an unlimited, multiple and enlarging tax-take. These advocates of bigger and better local government--dare we call them socialists--ignore the singular adjective “a” before the words “sales tax” in the authorizing Missouri statutes for a political subdivision. In the Circuit Court of Barry County, Judge Wiley stated, “A common sense reading of the statute is that the City may impose a sales tax of one-half, seven-eights, or one percent, and not a sales tax of two, three or four percent, or higher." [Penberthy v. City of Purdy.]
The City of Mount Vernon's administrator, John Rice, on advice of counsel, encouraged the eight alderman and mayor to replace a second half-cent capital improvement sales tax and convince a majority of citizens to adopt, instead, a half-cent transportation tax. That "revenue-netural category transfer" allowed the pending action of Burcham against the city to stand down. It cost the citizens $4,000 in ballot expenses. Mount Vernon citizens now pay both a half cent capital improvements tax and a half cent transportation tax.
The sources used to justify additional tax-takes beyond the common-sense reading of the statutes are interesting. A June 14, 1999 letter from a Technical Support Section clerk of the Missouri Department of Revenue's Tax Administration Bureau addressed to the St Joseph International Association of Fire Fighters includes this line: "There is no limit to the number of taxes that may be imposed under both section 94.500 and 94.577.” The clerk who wrote that letter, Sharon Wilson, cannot be found.
Even if she existed, if cities were eager to take more “no limit” taxes from their citizens, would getting permission from the state tax collection agency be that surprising? It appears the fox is guarding the hen house.
Missouri State Representative Tom Jones (Eureka) has filed HB 1442 to “clear up” the practice of Missouri municipalities' multiple taxes. However, State Senator Gary Nodler (Joplin) offered an amendment that seems to cloud the issue. It appears to protect the practice of tax stacking.
Whatever the proclivities of state taxing agents and their supporters in the legislature, the people of Missouri ought to speak up. Let me say it clear and loud, "Read my lips, no new taxes!”
Municipalities take the view that tax greed is good! They maintain that as long as no single general revenue sales tax exceeds the limitation, then multiples of taxes are acceptable.