With Fee Hikes Pending And A Tax Cut Vetoed, Could The 2013 Legislature End Up…Raising Your Taxes?
This weekend, David Lieb, of the Associated Press, wrote an erudite post-mortem of the recently concluded Missouri legislative session. In particular, he noted that if Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s tax cut veto stands, the legislature will find itself in the strange position of having increased the size of government through fees. The fees would affect a variety of services, including the cost of traffic tickets, propane, driver’s licenses, and municipal ordinance violations. But the net effect, assuming no tax relief, is clear enough (emphasis mine):
Nixon, a Democrat, has not publicly commented about the fee-increasing bills. But he already has vetoed the Republican-backed bill that would have gradually cut Missouri’s income taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Republicans could try to override that veto. But if they fail, and Nixon accepts the fee increases, the result of the 2013 session could be one that few Republicans envisioned: A government that takes more, not less, money from its citizens.
Ensuring that, where reasonable, the costs of government services are associated with the users of the services is typically a laudable objective. Not every cost of every state service should be distributed evenly to all taxpayers. Yet, if the net effect of a year’s legislation is not just higher state fees but higher costs to taxpayers generally, then we are headed in precisely the wrong public policy direction.
And that’s where things stand today; if the tax cut veto is not overridden and the fees become law, that may end up being what the legislature “achieved” in 2013. Legislators who supported the fee increases but opposed, and may oppose again, the tax cut, may have some explaining to do back in their districts. Stay tuned.