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Equip yourself to get Mo.’s 2016 ballot measures right!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 12:09
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(Before It's News)

On November 8th, you will be voting on more than just President, Senator, and Governor. Once you finish checking the box for your preferred candidates, you will vote on the ballot initiatives. Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, along with Proposition A, will be awaiting your answer.

Each one has lasting implications for our state so pay close attention and do your homework prior to voting on these.

We are constantly asked what our position is, and while we do not endorse and engage in electioneering, we certainly have an opinion on each and offer our recommendation.

First, it should be noted that none of these ballot measures are the result of an organic grassroots movement. Instead, the Initiative Petitions have been driven and paid for by special interest groups attempting to skew the Constitution to benefit their own interests or bottom line.

The way the Initiative Petition signature-gathering process typically works is simple. Professional signature-gatherers are paid to lurk about political and public functions and ask passersby (registered voters) for their signature.

The whole transaction normally takes less than three minutes with little to no thought of the broader implications by the voter. Sometimes, they also go door to door. Generally, the voter, who is being asked to sign, is trying to end the interaction as quickly as possible.

Many times, signatures are given just to make the signature-gatherer go away. The paid signature-gatherer, who is a temporary employee compensated by pay-per-signature, counts on the fact that you just want to end the encounter.

So what to do? A friend recently joked that he is “voting NO on everything because we can’t afford it and don’t need it!” His logic is applicable to nearly all of Missouri’s 2016 ballot initiatives. Nearly…


Amendment 1 – Recommend: NO

Commentary

Amendment 1(A1) is a tax renewal for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). More specifically, it is the continuation of a tax that generates $90 Million in revenue that is split between supporting existing state parks and soil/water [Conservation] Districts. It has been called by some the real “farmers’ welfare” which is why most agriculture interest groups support it.

Despite their clever wordsmithing, it has nothing to do with Missouri Conservation and hunting and fishing programs. This is a DNR tax, and while it is supposed to support the existing state park system, the Nixon Administration has recently been able to spend these funds in ways unintended.

“Cost-share” from this tax has paid for fencing, wells/water lines, oil disposal, ramps in water tanks, rotating mineral feeders, and more, all on privately owned farms.

The tax must be resubmitted to voters every 10 years for their approval. If it does not pass, your sales/use taxes will be lowered by 1/10 of 1%. If you decide to affirm this tax, you will not get another chance to sound off on it for a decade.

It is partially subject to the legislative appropriations process, but your elected officials have little say over how it is actually spent. Bureaucrats and the Governor are largely in control of it.

This revenue should have greater accountability and oversight by the people through their elected officials. That is the way it is supposed to work when it comes to your tax dollars. The people hold their elected officials accountable, and the people’s elected officials hold the unelected bureaucrats accountable.

Rather than automatically renewing a tax that goes directly to DNR, tax dollars should be appropriated through the budget process with proper annual oversite.

MAF opposes Amendment 1 because it ensconces a tax renewal/increase in the Missouri Constitution. It includes farm giveaways and is an example of cronyism. Except for a decennial renewal, the tax dollars collected lack proper legislative oversite and accountability to the Missouri Legislature and ultimately the people.

MAF recommends a NO vote to increase DNR’s accountability to the Missouri Legislature, reduce your tax burden, and counter act cronyism.

Ballot Measure 

Recommendation: Vote NO

Official Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 1

 Shall Missouri continue for 10 years the one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites, and resubmit this tax to the voters for approval in 10 years?

 The measure continues and does not increase the existing sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent for 10 years. The measure would continue to generate approximately $90 million annually for soil and water conservation and operation of the state park system.

 Fair Ballot Language:

 A “yes” vote will continue for 10 years the one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites. This will be resubmitted to the voters for approval in 10 years.

 A “no” vote will not continue this sales/use tax.

 If passed, this measure will not increase or decrease taxes.


 Amendment 2 – Recommend: NO

Commentary

Amendment 2 (A2) seeks to impose campaign finance limitations on individuals and corporations. It is contrary to the concept of free speech. For instance, it will cap individual donations to candidates at $2,600 per election cycle and gifts to political parties at $25,000. If this passes and becomes part of the Missouri Constitution, please do not donate $2,650 to your candidate of choice instead of the approved $2,600. If you do, your political activity will make you a criminal.

The reality of the world we live in is that money drives message through media. Money raised is tantamount to political speech because it directly correlates to the number of voters a candidate’s campaign or political party can speak to. By limiting campaign donations, the government will, effectually, be limiting the amount of speech citizens can engage in. It is wrong. Speech should not be limited, and neither should the amount of money you can invest in a candidate for public office so long as there is transparency.

The irony of Amendment 2 is that it is being driven by one St. Louis millionaire, named Fred Sauer, who gave a little over $1.1 Million to a political action committee, of which he is treasurer, to hire a Georgia-based political consulting firm to gather signatures on an Initiative Petition in order to put A2 on the ballot.

Mr. Sauer spent the majority of his $1 Million with the out-of-state consultant to gather signatures from Missourians under the auspices that money in politics is a bad thing. That he would spend over a million dollars on political activity to limit the amount you and I can give to the candidates smacks of hypocrisy.

To suggest that Amendment 2 is the result of a large groundswell of grassroots activity is to venture into the ridiculous. Instead, it is the ill-advised and ill-conceived journey into hypocrisy of an eccentric St. Louis millionaire. Presumably, it is well-intentioned, but as goes the old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This instance is no exception. It is fraught with unintended, speech-stifling consequences.

MAF recommends a NO vote in order to protect the freedom of speech.

Ballot Measure 

Recommendation: Vote NO

Official Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 2

 [Proposed by Initiative Petition]

 Official Ballot Title:

 Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: 

  • Establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office;
  • Prohibit individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions;
  • Require corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions; and
  • Provide a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment?

 It is estimated this proposal will increase state government costs by at least $118,000 annually and have an unknown change in costs for local governmental entities. Any potential impact to revenues for state and local governmental entities is unknown.

Fair Ballot Language:

A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office. This amendment prohibits individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions. This amendment also requires corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions. This amendment further provides a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment.

 A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to establish limits on campaign contributions.

 If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.


  Amendment 3 – Recommend: NO

 Commentary

Amendment 3 (A3) is a tax increase on cigarettes. It is a case of the big cigarette companies (R.J. Reynolds) against the little cigarette companies. Each has cut checks to hire political professionals, and each sides’ lobbyists and operatives are on the field and arrayed for battle, mano a mano. May the best little or big tobacco-funded political operatives win.

R.J. Reynolds apparently wants to amend our Constitution to raise cigarette taxes in order to stick it to its competition, the smaller cigarette companies that are gaining market share in Missouri. Thus A3’s Initiative Petition signatures were brought to you by big tobacco. It has nothing to do with kids or early childhood education.

In our opinion, tax schemes that demonize one industry and its customers to manipulate public opinion to impose a “sin tax” in order to create a bureaucratic slush fund for the Jefferson City education establishment are wrong. The A3 tax hike is being sold under the guise of establishing an early childhood education trust fund. This one takes that model a step further and is truly Machiavellian in that big tobacco are cloaking themselves in the anti-smoking, we love kids mantle in an effort to take out their smaller competitors.

Additionally, A3 ensconces abortion services into the Missouri Constitution. This is the language:

Section 54(b). 2. None of the funds collected, distributed, or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be expended, paid or granted to… [an] outpatient health care facility that provides abortion services, unless such services are limited to medical emergencies.”

Pro-life voters should take note that this proposal contains references to abortion and would place them in the state’s constitution. There are many reasons to oppose this tobacco tax scheme, but legitimizing abortion in the state Constitution should be a no-go for most conservatives.

For a more in-depth, scholarly analysis of A3 courtesy of The Show-Me Institute, please read Michael McShane’s essay entitled “Amendment 3: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” by clicking here.

MAF recommends a NO vote on this tax hike scheme.

Ballot Measure

Recommendation: Vote NO

Official Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 3

 [Proposed by Initiative Petition]

 Official Ballot Title:

 Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  •  increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20;
  • create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually; and
  • deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?

When cigarette tax increases are fully implemented, estimated additional revenue to state government is $263 million to $374 million annually, with limited estimated implementation costs. The revenue will fund only programs and services allowed by the proposal. The fiscal impact to local governmental entities is unknown.

 Fair Ballot Language:

 A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20. This amendment also creates a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes. This amendment further provides that the funds generated by these taxes and fees shall be deposited into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund.

 A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution relating to taxes and fees on cigarettes.

 If passed, this measure will increase taxes on cigarettes.


 Amendment 4 – Recommend: NO

 Commentary

Amendment 4 looks good at first glance, but a closer look reveals another special interest-driven ballot measure being pushed by everyone from the Missouri Realtors and Missouri Cattlemen to the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. Their intent is to prevent state or local governments from imposing new taxes on things like “haircuts, manicures, shoe repairs; the services of a family doctor, a lawyer or accountant; [and] the lease on a family’s home.” Sound too good to be true? It may just be.

If Amendment 4 passes, it will constitutionally prohibit any type of statutory tax reform and could make transformational tax reform like repealing Missouri’s income tax even harder. Some have gone as far as to suggest that Amendment 4 is an intentional move to preemptively impede future tax reform. Whether or not it is intentional, there is little argument that it makes reforming Missouri’s tax system much more challenging. We support real transformational tax reform that will turn Missouri into a free market leader. In this, we have to play long ball and not rally behind a short-sighted measure that sounds good, but will prevent us from moving forward in the long run.

MAF recommends a NO vote to prevent Missouri from being handcuffed in achieving real long term tax reform.

Ballot Measure

Recommendation: Vote NO

Official Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 4

 [Proposed by Initiative Petition]

 Official Ballot Title:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015?

 Potential costs to state and local governmental entities are unknown, but could be significant.  The proposal’s passage would impact governmental entity’s ability to revise their tax structures.  State and local governments expect no savings from this proposal.

 Fair Ballot Language:

A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction. This amendment only applies to any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or

similar tax as of January 1, 2015.

 A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit such state or local sales/use or other similar tax.

 If passed, this measure will not increase or decrease taxes.


 Amendment 6 – Recommend: YES

 Commentary

Amendment 6 (A6) should be a no-brainer for conservatives who believe in the sanctity of free and fair elections. It ensures that a law requiring a voter to verify his/her citizenship, identity, and residence with a photo-identification is Constitutionally viable in Missouri.

MAF recommends a YES vote for voter/photo ID to protect the integrity of elections.

Ballot Measure

Recommendation: Vote YES

Official Ballot Title: Constitutional Amendment 6

 [Proposed by 98th General Assembly (Second Regular Session) SS HJR 53]

 Official Ballot Title:

 Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?

 The proposed amendment will result in no costs or savings because any potential costs would be due to the enactment of a general law allowed by this proposal. If such a general law is enacted, the potential costs to state and local governments is unknown, but could exceed $2.1 million annually.

 Fair Ballot Language:

 A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to state that voters may be required by law to verify their identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification. Exceptions to this identification requirement may also be provided by law.

 A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding elections.


 Proposition A – Recommend: NO

 Commentary

Proposition A (Prop. A) is another cigarette tax increase. This was originally designed as a competing cigarette tax increase to be placed on the ballot in competition with Amendment 3. If passed it would generate $95 Million to $103 Million in revenue for transportation and infrastructure projects annually.

Prop. A was initially funded and championed by “little tobacco”. Companies like Cheyenne International, LPC Inc., Xcaliber International, and the state-based Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association pushed Prop. A to get it on the ballot. These are the same entities that are trying to defeat R.J. Reynolds and “big tobacco’s” Amendment 3. At this point it appears that they have largely shifted their focus from pushing Prop. A to defeating A3.

In Missouri, if there are two conflicting ballot measures that are approved, the measure with the most affirmative votes supersedes the other. This only applies when two Constitutional amendments are in competition with each other. If a Constitutional amendment competes with a proposed state statute, the amendment takes precedence over the statute should both no matter which one receives the most “YES” votes.

MAF recommends a NO vote for this tax increase.

Ballot Measure

Recommendation: Vote NO

Official Ballot Title: Proposition A

 [Proposed by Initiative Petition]

 Official Ballot Title:

 Shall Missouri law be amended to:

 Increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20; increase the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price; use funds generated by these taxes exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects; and repeal these taxes if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot?

State government revenue will increase by approximately $95 million to $103 million annually when cigarette and tobacco tax increases are fully implemented, with the new revenue earmarked for transportation infrastructure.  Local government revenues could decrease approximately $3 million annually due to decreased cigarette and tobacco sales.

 Fair Ballot Language:

 A “yes” vote will amend Missouri law to increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20. This amendment also increases the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price. This amendment further provides that the funds generated by these taxes shall be used exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects. These taxes are repealed if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot.

 A “no” vote will not amend Missouri law relating to taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

 If passed, this measure will increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson is the co-founder and president of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, a conservative advocacy and accountability group focused on advancing a conservative policy plan in Missouri and holding elected officials accountable.

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