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Department wants state to reimpose 50-cent fee on tires
A state-imposed fee applied to automobile tire purchases expired Thursday and the Department of Natural Resources says the loss of revenue could pose health risks to the public.
The department is already launching a campaign for the 2004 legislative session to reinstate what the fee funded, a program that enforced state laws on tire disposal, cleaned up illegal tire piles and provided incentives for schools and communities to use shredded tires for playground surfaces.
DNR officials are concerned that without funding for enforcement, Missouri's tire problem will revert to the way it was before 1990, when the tax was instituted.
Philip Tremblay, a public information specialist for the department, said the state had a huge tire problem before 1990. He said people would pile up tires, hoping to make a profit off them.
"People found out that around the tires, there was an increase in mosquitoes," Tremblay said.
So in 1990, the legislature passed the tire fee, which assesses 50 cents per tire.
Rep. Peter Meyers of Sikeston has introduced a bill that would extend the fee through 2009 and would require DNR to give preference of contracts to Missouri businesses that help with recycling.
Another bill, introduced by Rep. Therese Sander of Moberly, would extend the fee through 2009 but does not include the preference for Missouri businesses.
Rep. Scott Lipke of Jackson said he wants to make sure the DNR is spending the money wisely before he commits one way or the other.
"I like the idea that there is a sunset in there," he said. "Obviously there are benefits to tire cleanup. You have individuals or companies who agree to dispose of tires, then they dump them somewhere, and unless you have someone like DNR to go out there and clean up the tires, you have a big mess. At the same time, I don't want to pass on a fee to the consumers if they're not using money wisely. I haven't heard anything negative about the bill, but it wasn't a front-burner issue last year."
Tremblay said there is broad legislative support for an extension of the fee, but several legislators attached amendments to the legislation in 2003. Many legislators were in favor of the extension, he said, but not the amendments. The legislation was withdrawn on the final day of the session.
12 million tires removed
In a news release, DNR says it has removed approximately 12 million tires from illegal waste tire dumps in Missouri using the state's tire fee. The department estimates more than 3 million waste tires will remain scattered across Missouri's roadsides and communities when the fee expires. The department says when fees expired in other states, dumping increased. And every tire creates an environment that can produce 10,000 to 1 million mosquitoes in one breeding season.
The fee, however, will have nothing to do with the way businesses dispose of tires.
"All our tires go to a shredder," said Charlie Glueck, manager of Jackson Tire Service. "We document everything and keep records. The DNR makes an annual trip and checks our records. We'll continue to do everything the same way, the only difference is we don't have to track the money and send a check every quarter."