A day after releasing a scathing audit of the Missouri Department of Revenue, State Auditor Nicole Galloway visited The Missourian to discuss a wide variety of topics ranging from women in politics to the future of legislative districts.
In November 2018, Galloway, the lone Democratic statewide official, won her first re-election to the office after being appointed to the position by then Gov. Jay Nixon in 2015.
During her visit to Washington, Galloway talked about the role her office will play in the selection of a state demographer, which was mandated by Missouri voters as part of the Clean Missouri Amendment last November.
Galloway explained the Missouri Senate will have the final say in who will be selected to redraw the state’s legislative districts.
“My office is responsible for the application process,” Galloway said. “We are being very thoughtful and thorough, and will have an announcement in the coming weeks.”
Galloway acknowledged there has been and still is much resistance to Clean Missouri and cautioned lawmakers of her opposing party about making any additional rules changes to sidestep the will of the voters.
“We all know the deadlines on this,” she said. “The census is coming and there will be new districts.”
Clean Missouri was placed on the statewide ballot by the petition process and the campaign was kicked off in Washington.
Last week, legislation was filed to make the process harder for citizens to get measures passed into law without going through the legislative process.
Galloway explained her staff plays a vital role in the initiative petition process and doesn’t think changes are necessary.
“The auditor’s office investigates the fiscal impact the initiative would have on the state,” Galloway said. “Every few years there are ebbs and flows in the number of ballot items. I do not support changing the process or limiting the voters’ voices being heard.”
Galloway added there are many steps a petition must take before it is placed on the ballot, although some might say they go against the majority in the General Assembly.
She says the people understand more than many lawmakers give them credit for.
“People get frustrated when they think they aren’t being heard,” Galloway said. “They understand what it means to increase minimum wage or Right to Work. Those are things that affect the way you live your life.”
She added if the Legislature doesn’t act on specific issues in a way that is favorable to their everyday lives, it is their right to overturn those laws through the petition process.
“Some things win, some things don’t,” Galloway said. “The Legislature needs to listen to the will of the people. They have to get a lot of signatures and face a lot of legal challenges just to get on the ballot.”
Women in Office
With the November election loss of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Galloway is the only woman to hold a statewide elected office in Missouri.
Also, last November more women ran for and were elected to public offices, including the U.S. Congress, than any other time in history.
Galloway says she is proud to carry the torch for other female candidates and hopes some will challenge the current state officeholders in 2020.
“Women bring different types of life perspectives to the decision-making process,” Galloway said. “I would love to see more women run for state and local offices. I think the trend is here and I hope it continues.”
As far as her future, when asked if she plans to seek higher office, Galloway says she is enjoying her role as a public servant.
“I want to be in public service for a long time,” Galloway said. “A few years ago I never dreamed I would be where I am now. Right now I am focused on this job.”
As for the future of her party, Galloway says going too far in any direction is not a good thing and the best decisions are made in the middle.
The audit released Tuesday details uncertainty and confusion related to the state’s individual income tax withholding tables.
The report found that changes made to withholdings in January 2019 were done unlawfully and will result in over-withholding for the majority of individual Missouri taxpayers.
Galloway is now calling on Gov. Mike Parson and his administration to take responsibility for misleading Missourians on their taxes.
“For more than six months, this administration failed to communicate with Missourians on how changes to withholdings would affect their bank account. Then, despite bipartisan calls for answers, they attempted to downplay the issues,” Galloway said. “Taxpayers deserve honesty from the administration. Instead, the Department of Revenue continues to operate in secrecy.”
In December, as a part of the audit of the timeliness of tax refunds, Auditor Galloway directed her team to begin asking questions about the withholding tables.
The report outlines multiple changes made to the withholding tables and the administration’s failure to effectively communicate with the public about those changes.
New tables were released in March 2018 and October 2018. As a result of these changes, taxpayers are expected to pay an additional $134 million when they file their returns, and there will be $232 million less in tax refunds issued.
Changes were made without explanation and resulted in confusion for individual taxpayers. While department officials contacted employers and payroll agencies directly about the changes, they failed to adequately notify all taxpayers. As a result, many taxpayers were unaware of the changes, unclear on what adjustments to make to their withholdings, and have encountered an unwelcome surprise in the form of unexpected tax payments.