5 November Special Election for internet Use Tax; why I would VOTE NO
My focus is on the county internet use tax (Proposition 1) and City of Rolla (Proposition P.S. Public Safety).
1. Phelps county cites the purpose of Proposition 1: “to eliminate the current sales tax advantage that non-Missouri vendors have over Missouri vendors.” However, there is no designated need, shortfall or purpose cited in the proposition for the estimated revenue to be collected. On 5 Sept 2019, during the city/county use tax public session, there was very little in the way of facts presented. The commissioners claim we may need the funds in the future, but there’s no problem to be solved, no plan for the revenue. They admitted that in some account columns we currently possess excess funds. And there’s no promise to reduce the levy rate when the use tax revenues exceed operational need. Government with its new-found transfer of wealth will expand, thus creating the need for future tax increases to feed the expansion. This use tax proposition is written so no current or future commission can be limited and held to account for the manner in which the funds should be used. There is NO current urgent need for a use tax (county internet tax).
2. The cited purpose of Rolla City Proposition P.S.: “to fully fund public safety needs with any additional funds being applied to other general fund needs”. What does fully fund public safety mean? For what purposes, how much and for how long? What are the other general fund needs? Now you may hear reasons advocated about the aging radio/communication system that needs replacement or the pay and benefits package for officers to enhance recruitment and retention; but where is that in the Proposition? It’s not. There was a city management estimate of $100,000 for fire and police radios. And there was an estimate of $225,000 in potential annual revenue from the tax, that was a gross underestimate for sure. Regardless, that means the radio problem is solved in the first year; what next? When asked at the 5 September open session about how the new tax revenue would be applied to the officer recruitment and retention issue, the city management had no plan to share. At the city meeting where the council approved the ballot proposal, the city management remarked that the new tax in the beginning would focus on public safety issues (no list nor priorities) then on to other general fund needs (no list, no priorities). Public Safety (PS) is the hook to get us to vote yes while the enduring reason for the new internet tax is to solve other initiatives/shortfalls/debt not revealed in the proposition as written. With no detailed plan for new revenue, you can’t be held accountable by the folks for how it’s used.
3. Fairness to local vendors. This argument assumes that folks will buy products on the internet to avoid paying local sales tax. Is it fair to be taxed even if the product is not available locally? Is it fair that we pay an additional 1% for the Forum Plaza Community Improvement District (CID) tax that we were not allowed to vote on and it all goes back to the developer? Is it fair that we pay an additional 1% in the Transportation Development District (TDD) tax, where millions go back to the developer we were not allowed to vote on? Is it fair that the Kohls TIF returns 50% of sales tax and 100% of property tax to the developer for a couple of decades that we did not vote on? Is it fair that the Westside TIF returns 50% of sales tax and 75% of property tax to the developer for a couple of decades that we did not vote on? Is it fair to give away collected sales tax to developers and then ask citizens for an internet sales use tax? Is it fair to impose an added 1% sales tax for the TDD and CID thereby increasing local sales tax, then complain an out of state sale is the culprit for a deficit in local revenue? Keep up the giveaway of our tax dollars that we didn’t vote for and blame folks for attempting to avoid local sales tax; silly!
4. Voting yes means we will be required to file an annual use tax return for purchases from out of state vendors exceeding a total of $2,000 in any calendar year. Who in the world wants to add that to our to do list?