The Franklin County Republican Central Committee has issued a resolution condemning the actions of state Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, in helping pass a statewide gas tax increase.
The resolution, approved Aug. 11, accuses Schatz, the Senate president pro tem, of using “deception” by calling the tax a fee and offering rebates for people who turn in receipts for gasoline purchases, and said passing the tax violated the Hancock Amendment, a 1980 Missouri constitutional amendment that limits taxing and spending by the state.
The resolution said state tax increases must be passed by a vote of the people, and Missouri residents voted down new gas taxes in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
The law will raise Missouri’s gas tax by 2.5 cents per year until it reaches 29.5 cents per gallon in 2025.
“It appears, based on Senator Schatz’s actions that his priorities are fundamentally different from his caucus and the Missouri voters,” the resolution reads.
The resolution adds that the committee will no longer provide “material or financial” support to Schatz in future campaigns.
Though Schatz is prohibited from running for a third four-year term in the state Senate, he has been considering a run for higher office.
The resolution is signed by committee Chairman Ben Brown, who has announced he will run for the Senate seat Schatz is leaving in 2022, and Secretary Amy DeClue.
As of August 2020, other members of the Republican Central Committee are Sue Luedde, of Villa Ridge; Dennis and Wendy Hartmann, of St. Clair; Bill Petrovic, of Sullivan; Derek Sentinella, of Lonedell; Pam Heitzmann, of Beaufort; and Susan Ida Luedde, of Union, according to a list provided by the Franklin County Clerk’s Office.
The Franklin County Republican Central Committee’s website also listed Trish Mitchell as vice chairwoman.
Brown told The Missourian that the vote for the resolution was unanimous. He said the idea was brought to the committee by a newer member.
“It just, kind of, highlights some of the frustrations a lot of the Republicans in the area are feeling regarding some of the things they’ve heard over the last legislative session,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration with the gas tax, not just the policy itself but the way in which it was enacted.”
Schatz told The Missourian attorneys reviewed the bill that was passed, which Schatz sponsored, and they do not believe the Hancock Amendment applies to anything outside general revenue. “Gas tax is not general revenue,” Schatz said in a phone interview. “It is a user fee.”
The Franklin County Republican Central Committee also accuses Schatz of holding “very popular” bills “hostage” until the gas tax was passed by the House, including House Bill 85, the Second Amendment Preservation Act, and House Bill 349, which creates education savings accounts funded by tax credits to help offset the cost of private school. Like the gas tax, both those bills were approved in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike Parson.
“I’m not the floor leader, but the floor leader makes the determination as to when legislation comes to the floor and the timeliness of it,” Schatz said. “So I did not hold the Second Amendment Preservation Act up to get the gas tax passed. That’s patently false.”
While Schatz cannot run for another term in the state Senate, he has been considering running for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, who is not running for reelection. Schatz said Thursday he is still looking at running but is not ready to make an announcement.
“We’re close to making a decision,” he said.
Whatever office Schatz seeks next, Brown said he would like him to have more of a presence at the grassroots level, including Schatz or someone from his office having a presence at meetings of the Republican Central Committee and other organizations.
“Any person in elected office, it’s always going to be beneficial to them and the people they represent when they’re striving to keep those lines of communication open and stay engaged with people at different levels,” he said.
Schatz said he was invited to speak to the central committee but had to attend a visitation for former state Sen. Ed Emery, who died Aug. 6. Schatz said he would like to speak to the group in the future.
“These individuals, whoever they are, I’m not even sure who wrote the resolution or whatever they did, but I would be glad to debate anyone on the facts and the merits of the issue,” Schatz said.
Brown said he has spoken to Schatz since the resolution was passed and they will work to get him to speak to the central committee, which is made up of members from around the county.
“I always believe in both sides of any policy or any decision should have the opportunity to present their point of view,” he said. “Even though the committee decided to proceed with this, I want him to have the opportunity to come in and address this, along with any other questions they might have.”
As a candidate himself now, Brown said he tries to act more as an “impartial arbiter” during discussions like this.
Schatz added he has worked to address funding transportation needs his entire time in the Legislature and continued to be reelected by voters. “This measure that I passed, obviously, is supported by the lieutenant governor, the governor of Missouri and myself,” he said. “The leaders of the Republican Party in this state believe that it’s critical to invest in infrastructure, and, regardless of what these individuals think, I would put a little more credibility in myself and the governor and lieutenant governor on what’s right for Missouri and how we can go about raising the funds necessary to take care of our roads and bridges.”