A ballot measure to ban a state or local sales tax on services has limited but vocal opposition.
Backers of the Taxpayer Protection Amendment secured the necessary signatures to place the proposal before voters back in August.
The Missouri Municipal League, which represents 660 cities and towns across the state, contends passage of the measure could lead to a reduction of vital local services.
The League’s Deputy Director, Richard Sheets, says the provision would limit the ability of local governments to adjust to a changing economy. “Sales taxes are an important way cities pay for police, fire, streets, economic development” said Sheets. “By putting a provision in the constitution responding to a non-problem is just very problematic for us.” Most ballot measures involve or make changes to the constitution if passed.
Scott Charton of Missourians for Fair Taxation, which introduced the proposal, claims a sales tax on services would negatively impact citizens. “With a new sales tax on services, every Missouri family would pay more everyday” said Charton. “We know that sales tax hits hardest on those who are least able to pay. Think of senior citizens, retirees, disabled people on fixed incomes, and also hard working low and middle income families.”
The measure would ban the Missouri legislature from allowing sales taxes on services such as those performed by doctors, bankers and auto mechanics. The Municipal League’s Sheets calls it bad public policy. “A legislature has to have the option of making the laws that respond to the times we live in. And this just takes our legislative representative form of government and just throws it out of the window.”
Sheets also says there’s no effort on the part of local governments to impose sales taxes on services. “It’s a solution looking for a problem.” Sheets notes Municipal League worked with the Missouri Association of Realtors to oppose recent efforts in the legislature impose such levies.
The Realtors Association along with Missourians for Fair Taxation are prominent supporters of the ballot measure. Charton with the latter group notes Missouri lawmakers have proposed service sales taxes in the past seven session while neighboring states have considered similar moves. A law was passed this year prohibits taxes on instructional classes in the state.
Other organizations favoring the ballot measure, known as Amendment 4, include the National Federation of Independent Business, the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the Missouri Press Association.
Voters will decide the proposals fate in next month’s general election.