Voters in some Southeast Missouri counties may have the opportunity in April to decide whether to allow the collection of sales taxes that the Missouri Supreme Court ruled last year governments could no longer take from consumers.
County commission meetings set for today in at least two area counties -- Cape Girardeau and Scott -- will include discussions of placing a use-tax question on the April ballot. Today is the last day a ballot question for April can be certified. County commissioners would have to vote in approval of placing the question on the ballot.
Governments in Bollinger and Perry counties also are said to be considering a ballot question, but government offices were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and officials could not be reached for comment.
The Missouri Supreme Court decided last spring that local governments no longer could charge sales tax on vehicles purchased out of state or on person-to-person sales. As a result, some local governments are facing up to a 20 percent dip in annual sales tax revenue.
A voter-approved use tax would allow local governments to levy a tax with everyone paying the full amount of sales tax charged in that particular area. A use tax in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties would be 1 percent. Any city with a voter-approved use tax could charge the amount equal to city sales tax.
Officials in both counties have said they are hopeful the state legislature will pass a bill during the current session to reinstate their ability to collect the sales taxes, but as of Monday no legislation had been introduced in the state House of Representatives or Senate. The legislature passed a bill during the 2012 session that would have allowed the collection of sales tax on vehicle purchases, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Some House Republicans attempted to override the veto but could not come up with enough votes.
"I was hoping the state would try to tackle it, but I don't think they are going to," said Scott County Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger.
State Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, who has been in support of the legislature moving to reinstate the tax, on Monday said he anticipates a bill will be filed during the current session, but other legislation under consideration, such as a bill calling for elections to fill vacancies in statewide elected offices, has taken precedence.
The Scott County Commission more likely will address the use tax question with a vote today, although Burger said commissioners have been trying to get a feel for surrounding counties' plans before making any decision about placing it on the ballot.
Cape Girardeau County Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said the commission's special meeting set for 9 a.m. today may be canceled -- commissioners wanted to hear from local chambers of commerce about seeking a use tax before a vote, he said, which has not yet happened.
Tracy said he wasn't confident the legislature would move to change local governments' ability to collect sales taxes as they once did.
"Either we need to solve the problem, or just accept the fact that it's not going to get fixed, in my opinion," he said.
Approximately 40 Missouri counties have a use tax. A few were able to add use taxes in November elections, but, overall, most voters said they did not want one when the question was placed on the ballot.
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