Mo. Group Challenges Sales Tax Hike

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) filed a challenge Monday to a proposal to raise the state sales tax rate by one percent to fund road improvements.

Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs is trying to get approval for a ballot initiative to raise money for roads. If the group can get the required signatures, voters would get to decide in Nov. 2014 whether to raise the state sales tax rate from 4.225 percent to 5.225 percent.

MASW filed the action in Cole County Circuit Court to challenge the summary statement for the proposal, which was prepared by Secretary of State Jason Kander's office.

MASW said in its petition that the summary statement is misleading.

"The certified summary statement is insufficient and unfair because it inadequately, unfairly, and prejudicially describes the purposes and legal impact of the ballot measure," the group wrote in the petition.

MASW Executive Director Jeanette Mott Oxford said in a news release Monday the group sees three problems with the summary. 

First, the group said the summary blurs the distinction between the sales tax and the use tax.

Second, the group said the statement prohibits toll roads and bridges. MASW said the proposal only bans tolls on roads in existence before Jan. 1, 2014. MASW said that means the state would be able to use tolls on roads built after that date.

Lastly, MASW said the tax increase is described in the summary statement as a one-percent sales tax hike. The group said an increase from 4.225 percent to 5.225 percent is actually a 23.67 percent increase.

Mott Oxford said the sales tax hike would fall on Missourians least able to pay for it.

On Nov. 18, Mott Oxford told KOMU 8 News people making fewer than $31,000 a year would have a tough time affording a sales tax increase because people with incomes below that threshold often pay as much as 10 percent of their income toward sales taxes.

"About 40 percent of our population have incomes that leave people insecure around basic human needs, like rent and utilities and food. Those folks will experience a serious hardship out of a sales tax as a funding mechanism," Mott Oxford said.

Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs is currently working on getting signatures for the proposal and is trying to get more than 200,000 signatures before May 4.