Next Tuesday, Missouri voters will be asked to vote on several ballot initiatives. The following is a brief description of the initiatives and the Southeast Missourian editorial board's position on them.
* Constitutional Amendment No. 1 would require all county assessors to be elected. A yes vote would require those political subdivisions that have appointed assessors to make that office an elected position. A no vote would not change the current law. Recommendation: Oppose. Assessors are already elected in most counties, including in Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Scott and Perry counties. This amendment shifts the organizational structure for a county position from the local area, where it belongs.
* Constitutional Amendment No. 2 would exempt former prisoners of war that have a total service-connected disability from property taxes on property used as a homestead. A yes vote would exempt these individuals from homestead property taxes. A no vote would not change the current law. Recommendation: Split. We believe it is dangerous to begin crafting exemptions from taxes according to nonfinancial status. That said, if a group is worthy of such exemption, this is it.
* Constitutional Amendment No. 3 would amend the Missouri Constitution to prevent the state, counties and other political subdivisions from imposing any new real estate transfer tax. A yes vote would amend the Missouri Constitution to prevent this tax. A no vote would allow state, county and other political subdivisions the option of imposing this tax. Recommendation: Approve. Property owners already pay property taxes. This amendment curtails one possibility for double taxation on real estate and prevents additional complications -- and delays -- in real estate transfers.
* Proposition A would prevent Missouri cities, other than St. Louis and Kansas City, from imposing an earnings tax, and require voters of St. Louis and Kansas City to hold a separate vote every five years to determine if they wish to keep their current city earnings tax. Should these cities vote to stop the earnings tax, the tax could not be revoted on by the two cities. A no vote would keep the earnings tax option available for cities in Missouri. Recommendation: Oppose. This proposition is basically aimed at St. Louis and Kansas City. Better for voters there to make the decision for themselves through normal processes rather than to do an end-run.
* Proposition B would prevent large-scale dog breeding operations from neglecting dogs, and it would control the number of dogs available for breeding at each location. Violations would result in a misdemeanor crime of "puppy mill cruelty." A yes vote would impose these restrictions on dog breeders. A no vote would not change the current laws on breeding. Recommendation: Oppose. While the goal is worthy, the fine print of this measure is overly complicated.
* City of Cape Girardeau voters will be asked whether they support the licensing of gambling operations in Cape Girardeau. A yes vote would give the city the option to accept a gaming license. A no vote would prevent the city from being awarded a gaming license, thus preventing a casino from locating in Cape Girardeau. Recommendation: Approve. While we respect opponents to this measure, licensed gaming is legal in Missouri. We believe the advantages to a development here strongly outweigh the negatives. (See editorial, Sunday, Oct. 24, for a full perspective.)
* City of Jackson voters will be asked if the city should impose a sales tax of one-quarter of one percent for the purpose of providing revenue for the operation of the fire department. A yes vote would approve this tax for the fire department and pay for fire operations at a new station. A no vote would prevent the city from imposing the new tax. Recommendation: Approve. As Jackson continues to grow, the city needs to improve its fire response times and this would help.
We encourage all readers to read the full length explanation of each of these ballot issues. A detailed explanation of each issue can be found on the Missouri secretary of state's website, www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2010ballot.
To read more election coverage, including election night results, go to www.semissourian.com/election.