State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said a proposal to raise the state sales tax by three-quarters of a cent for 10 years would be the largest tax increase in the state’s history.
That is one of the reasons he voted against the bill that will allow the state’s voters to decide whether they want to impose the increase on themselves to pay for transportation projects across the state, he said.
Despite his vote against it, the bill passed, and voters will decide Aug. 5 whether they want to approve the transportation sales tax to help shore up Missouri Department of Transportation revenue.
Estimates for what the tax would generate over the 10-year period range from $5.4 billion to $6.1 billion.
The Missouri Department of Revenue confirmed that the proposed transportation tax would be the largest tax increase in the state’s history based on those revenue estimates.
Nieves said he also voted against the bill because he received much more input from people opposed to the tax than those who are for it.
Some local officials have voiced support for the tax as a way to fund a Highway 47 widening project. That made voting against the tax a tough decision, Nieves said. But in the end he said he had to honor the wishes of all citizens who were against the tax.
Moreover, he said that the transportation tax does not guarantee or even strongly suggest that the Highway 47 widening would be funded. Voters could pass the tax, and it could still be 25 years before Highway 47 is widened, he added.
Nieves said he also voted against the bill because the legislation did not require local city and county governments to decide whether to put the tax up to a vote.
He noted that in other cases when new taxes are imposed, local governments must get enabling legislation from the Legislature first. Once the enabling legislation is passed, local government bodies, such as city councils or county commissions, can then vote to put a new tax on the ballot, he said.
In this case that extra level of accountability is not in place, Nieves said. Instead, the Legislature just decided to put it on the ballot, he noted. He prefers when the local city and county governments must decide to put a tax on the ballot because it requires those who answer directly to the people of an area to make the decision, he said.
Nieves agreed that transportation funding is a true and valid concern. But he said rather than raising taxes the Legislature could make cuts in the existing budget.
Despite his vote against the tax, he said he appreciates the fact that those in favor of it were willing to be flexible and lower the amount from the original 1 cent to three-quarters of a cent. He said he took part in an effort to lower the amount.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, also voted against the bill to allow people to vote on whether to impose the tax.
State Reps. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, and Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, were in favor of the bill.