Last week’s legislative session in Jefferson City ended with a bang, but the shockwave from that bang might very well ripple across all corners of Missouri, including right here in Neosho. And while the political battles are being portrayed as a political game between the Governor and the legislature, the victims of that battle could be closer to home than I’d like to see.
At issue are a round of last-minute “tax breaks” passed by legislators. While the specifics are still rather unclear, Gov. Nixon’s folks believe the new legislation, if signed by the governor, could mean a loss of revenue for local governments in excess of $350 million. Based on historical distributions, the Missouri Municipal League is estimating Neosho could lose over $700,000 annually.
According to Nixon, a large chunk of the local revenue hit will come from proposed sales tax exemptions for electricity. There is even some political speak that current taxpayers could seek refunds of other types of taxes if they had not been “property notified” by the Department of Revenue that the taxes were due. (I’m waiting for some better answers and clarification on that before I pass final judgment, but it could be bad news for city revenues.)
It’s no secret the legislature and the governor haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. Such is life in politics. But when their wrangling starts impacting local revenues (and consequently, the very services they help pay for), it’s time for some answers. I did reach out to both Sen. Richard and Rep. Reiboldt via email on Wednesday. I’m hoping they can clear up some of the confusion.
And at the end of the day, I’ve got no doubt that some on each side will play the figures to fit their political position on the revenue cuts, but when Neosho is the one who pays the ultimate price of that political chess game, I certainly can’t sit back and watch. Even if Nixon’s numbers are inflated by a factor of two, the potential impact is still significant.
Given the city’s past financial troubles, we’ve worked hard to rebuild reserves and start returning to the taxpayers some of that property tax increase we put in place in 2010. But we are now facing an unexpected revenue cut that could very well offset the very gains we’ve made to put the city back on a solid financial footing. What’s even more frustrating is I doubt the legislature expected the potential negative impact and “fixing” legislation after the fact is never certain.
House Speaker Tim Jones (who has his own future political aspirations) was quoted as saying "As a legislative body, we came together to stand in defense of the taxpayers and to provide a shield against the glaring overreaches made by the executive branch.” What the Speaker fails to mention is that some of that money isn’t controlled by the executive branch, but rather it’s collected to provide basic services such as police and fire protection for taxpayers in towns all across the state.
I hope to hear from the legislators soon. And initial reports indicate that Gov. Nixon has already voiced his opposition to the revenue cuts, which some take to mean they are destined for a veto. Regardless of what ultimately happens, it goes to show you that what happens in Jefferson City doesn’t always stay in Jefferson City. And in this particular case, my opinion is political aspirations and wrangling could very likely hurt the very taxpayers some say they are trying to protect if these cuts are allowed to become law.
A quick congrats and “thanks” to everyone who had a hand in making last Saturday’s “Neosho Music Fest” a success. The hatchery friends group, my dear friend David Hendrix and Kevin Foote of Walgreens all deserve a round of applause. It was an awesome day!
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho.
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.