Missouri Voter Guide 2016

Here, by popular demand, are my thoughts about the upcoming election.

For elective offices, I recommend voting a straight Republican ticket. With a Republican Governor and General Assembly, Missouri can finally remove the millstone around the state’s economic neck without needing veto overrides. The biggest economic issues are:

  • forced union membership
  • prevailing wage
  • relief from excessive taxatio and regulation

Removing the first wo and reforming the third would promote general economic growth and dramatically reduce the cost of construction by cities and school districts. This would help the union workers so adamantly opposed to these reforms. The bloat of tax credits for development and historic preservation, largely confined to St Louis and Kansas City, Democrat strongholds, have choked the state’s revenue stream for too long. There is hope they could be dramatically scaled back. Another critical issue is religious liberty. Josh Hawley as Attorney General would be of immense help here.

Some believe that the Republican General Assembly is too conservative, to the point that electing liberal Democrats might restore some mythical middle-of-the-road balance. But there is no compromise possible on right-to-work or religious liberty. If there were to be one, it would prove the maxim that to do nothing is often better than a bad compromise.

I recommend turning down every initiative and proposed constitutional amendment with the exception of the Constitutional amendment no. 6, dealing with verifying a voter’s identity, citizenship, and residence. United for Missouri has a fuller discussion of the constitutional amendments here. My comments on each amendment are below.

Constitutional amendment no.1.

“Shall Missouri continue for 10 years the one-tenth on one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites…”

The decision here is not whether we approve of soil conservation and parks, but rather if a constitutional amendment is the proper way to fund a state department. The answer should be obvious. Four major comments: one, the Constitution is no place for individual taxes. It is for the general structure of state government. It should be up to the legislature to fund all state agencies. Two, this is a dedicated tax, which may not be used for any other purpose. Dedicated taxes are always a mistake, no matter the desirability of the benefits. The needs of government agencies are not the same from year to year. The invariability of the tax rate does not allow for adjustment and it takes away from the remaining pot of money available to all the other agencies. It exempts the conservation and parks departments from having to justify their budgets every year in competition with the other departments. Unearned entitlements are as bad an idea for bureaucrats as they are for people. Three, it sets a precedent for according this kind of preferential treatment to other agencies via new constitutional amendments. Four, there are rumblings that some funds from the tax have been improperly used. Regular funding would bring better accountability.

Let’s help the parks by funding them the same way as other departments by voting NO.

Constitutional amendment no. 2.

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 candidate for state or judicial office…

This amendment follows the liberal howling about the Citizen United Supreme Court decision that individual together have the same free-speech rights as they do individually. There is no evidence that spending more money swings elections. There is evidence that campaign finance laws limit the amounts that may be given to political parties, weakening them and strengthening outside groups (think Soros.) This is a dangerous amendment & should be voted down, never to return.

Constitutional amendment no. 3

Shall the Missouri constitution be amended to increase taxes on cigarettes…and deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?

The same comments about Amendment 1 apply here. Dedicated taxes are mistakes. Constitutions should not be used for policy purposes, even if they are disguised as For The Children. Some recent research suggests that early childhood education is either not effective or somewhat harmful. In any event the state should stay out of education. Toddlers should be with their mothers, not in some government provided nursery.

The television advertising in favor of this amendment stresses that Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation as if that were a reason to raise it. Many states have an income tax rate of zero; should they raise it? It also implies that stogie-chomping politicos in the capitol are against the tax. No explanation why this should be believed. And of course we all know that early childhood education is desperately needed. J

There are some curious provisions hidden in the fine print of this amendment. One is the prohibition on use of funds on abortion and human cloning, as well as distribution of funds to any facility providing abortion services. Is this to prohibit funding abortion for five-year olds? Then there is a prohibition of funding “tobacco related research of any kind.” Following which we notice a provision for a tax increase labelled an “equity assessment fee.” This would raise taxes substantially on the competitors of Big Tobacco, who did not participate in the huge 1998 nationwide tobacco settlement that enriched trial lawyers by hundreds of millions.

This self-serving proposal originates with the big tobacco companies and is beyond shameful. The only good thing about it is that it provides evidence that the mechanism for proposing constitutional amendments needs real tightening up.

Constitutional amendment no. 4

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

This is a good one, deceptively labelled as the Taxpayer Protection Amendment. The claim is that if sales taxes were to be extended to services, taxpayers would pay more. Broadening the tax base is usually a very good idea, as it promotes equal treatment and would permit lowering the sales tax rate. The Canadian sales tax is called GST, for Goods and Services Tax. It is a fair tax. Why should services be exempt? What does January 1, 2015 have to do with good tax policy? United for Missouri claims that real estate agents are the primary initiators of this proposal. They are fearful that broadening the sales tax base would permit lowering the very high income tax rate in Missouri, which would then lower the value of the home mortgage deduction and thus of the value of houses. A very good AP story here states the organizers of the amendment are supported by a coalition of accountants, attorneys, banks, funeral homes, newspapers, and broadcast media. The hubris of these people is astonishing. If there ever was a self-serving proposal by ‘special interests, this is it.

Constitutional amendment no. 6

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?

Opponents claim that voter impersonation is a non-problem, though a man elected by voter fraud currently serves in the Missouri General Assembly. This amendment permits the state to prevent impersonating a dead person or someone who has moved to another state but has not been removed from the voter rolls. It also prevents people voting in districts not their own. Finally it would prevent non-citizens from voting, a well documented and growing problem exacerbated by bad court decisions.

This amendment was made necessary by opposition from Democrats and a bad Missouri Supreme Court ruling invalidating legislation. The legislature then turned to a constitutional amendment to get this reform past judicial opposition. An obvious YES vote.

State of Missouri Statutory Measure Proposition A

Shall Missouri law be amended to increase taxes on cigarettes…use funds generated by these taxes exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects…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?

There are two tobacco taxation measures on the ballot. This one, Proposition A, is dueling with Amendment 3. Both claim to use the revenue collected for angelic purposes. Proposition A would use the increased tax revenues to fund a quite real funding gap for Missouri’s transportation needs. Again, dedicated taxes are bad policy. The legislature should come up with a way to address this need. This proposition has an interesting twist. The tax will “automatically and permanently be repealed” the moment “any tax or fee increase on some of all cigarettes or other tobacco products is officially certified to be placed on any local or statewide ballot.” In other words, the legislation introduces a poison pill to prevent any other tax on tobacco. Outrageous. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, who promoted this attempt to circumvent Amendment 3, should be tarred and feathered.

 State of Missouri Official Judicial Ballot Missouri Supreme Court Judge

Shall Judge Richard B. Teitelman of the Missouri Supreme Court be retained in office?

Teitelman is one of the most leftwing activist justices Missouri has ever seen. His tenure with the notoriously liberal Legal Services of Eastern Missouri before he became a judge reveals his mindset. As a judge his opposition to tort reform and the death penalty along with his approval of homosexual marriage earned him opposition in his 2004 retention election. The Missouri Bar’s trial lawyers supported him at 80% then. The Missouri Supreme Court’s perverse decision striking down voter ID legislation made Amendment 6 necessary. This is an easy call: NO.   Troglo



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