A House proposal that would have eliminated the one-eighth of one percent conservation sales tax, which accounts for 60-percent of the Department of Conservation’s budget, has been withdrawn.
State Representative Craig Redmon says he filed the resolution to spark debate with the department, and feeling he has succeeded in starting that debate, decided to withdraw it after meeting with Conservation officials. Redmon doesn’t like that there is no sunset clause or periodic review built into the tax.
“When you don’t ever vote on a tax again, when that tax goes on for infinity, it could have the potential of taking away some accountability,” said Redmon. “Everybody thinks government should be more transparent and more accountable. And with this policy, I felt like that was a problem.”
Conservation Deputy Director Tim Ripperger says the conservation sales tax brings in approximately 107 million dollars a year, and says produces almost five times that amount in state and local taxes.
“Because of the fish and wildlife related activity, spending on recreation and the forest products industry, that tax generates 507 million dollars of state and local taxes throughout Missouri,” says Ripperger. “So, it’s been a real economic boom for the state when you look at it.”
The Department of Conservation does not receive general revenue funds.
Redmon says people saw his proposal and accused him of hating the conservation department and of trying to end it, but Redmon says he actually likes the department and was trying to fix a potential problem.
“What would happen if somebody would [offer a proposal to eliminate the conservation tax] and actually get it passed, then where would we be?” said Redmon. “That is the big discussion problem.”
Ripperger says the department is truly appreciative that Redmon has withdrawn the proposal.
“Anytime you’re looking at a piece of legislation that could impact your budget by 60-percent, obviously that’s significant,” said Ripperger. “We’re encouraged that Representative Redmon has sat down with us, talked to us, worked with us, will work through the process, and we’re encourage the proposal has been withdrawn.”
Ripperger says Redmon has indicated that he would like to see more oversight on the department. Ripperger says he understands and respects his views on that.
Redmon has been the chairman of the Appropriations Committee for Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources for the past two years. That committee will hear testimony from the Conservation Department about its budget on Monday.
While Redmon’s proposal has been eliminated, the Conservation Commission of Missouri put out a release on Friday expressing its concern over several other measures, including separate proposals from Senator Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown) that would eliminate hunting, fishing, and permitting fees for Missouri residents; and from Representative Bryan Spencer (R-Wentzville) that would ask voters to reduce the conservation sales tax from one-eighth to one-sixteenth of a cent.