A no-tax pledge made by several House Republicans might come back to haunt them.
House Speaker Rod Jetton acknowledged reluctance on the part of his fellow Republicans to vote for a one-eighth cent sales tax for veterans’ services.
"I’ve spent my career since I came to Jeff City fighting tax increases, being against tax increases." Jetton told the body during House floor debate on HJR 71 , "I’m proud of the record we’ve got on turning around the state without a tax increase."
It is rare that the House Speaker comes to the floor to speak on a measure. Jetton took the unusual step to rally the troops and calm fears about voting in favor of a tax increase. Jetton acknowledged that a lot of representatives on both sides of the aisle worried about the vote, whether it would be used against them in a political campaign.
Rep. Terry Witte, a Democrat from Vandalia, expressed such concerns in a question to the sponsor during House floor debate, "So, in the upcoming election, if I get attacked for voting for a tax increase, can I get you to come out and defend me?"
The defense becoming popular is that representatives didn’t really vote to increase taxes, they voted to ask Missourians to decide whether to increase taxes to build six new veterans homes and up to 12 veterans service centers.
Democrat John Burnett, a state representative from Kansas City, agreed it’s a noble cause, "Simply because you tie a tax increase to a noble cause, does not make it something other than a tax increase."
Several Republicans made much the same point, stating they support veterans, but cannot support a tax increase. Democrats in the House were quick to point out that 11 House Republicans violated a campaign pledge they signed to oppose any efforts to increase taxes, including the sponsor of the resolution Rep. Barney Fisher (R-Richards).
The one-eighth of a cent sales tax generated $103 million dollars for the Conservation Commission during the last fiscal year. The increase for the Veterans Commission would sunset in eight years. It could be renewed by voters at a lower level, one-tenth of a cent.