Letter to the Editor

Your View: Will tax work?

Monday, February 2, 2004

Regarding the propsed one cent increase in the Sikeston City sales tax to be decided in Tuesday's election, I have a few comments, a question and a suggestion.

Having lived in different cities over the years, I have seen my share of local sales tax increase proposals voted on in public elections and I have noticed some similarities. ALWAYS, a sales tax increase is for a good cause. The revenue generated is usually to be used for education, law enforcement, essential building and/or equipment needed to insure the safety or well being of a deserving citizenship. ALWAYS, a majority of the managers in local government holding office by appointment or election, have in their opinion, determined and believe that a sales tax increase is the answer to whatever the problem or need may be.

VERY OFTEN, attached to a proposed sales tax increase there is a clause which limits a temporary length of time that the tax may be collected (5 years, 10 years, etc.), implying to people that this tax will be temporary and will fix the temporary problem. This is clause is referred to as a "sunset clause", and at the expiration of the temporary tax period, voters may elect to end the temporary tax or make it a permanent tax in public election.

Simple and fair enough so far except in my experience with taxes and sunset clauses, the sun never sets! It seems that when it is time to decide on a temporary tax, the ballot to do so is confusing to the point that voters end up eliminating the sunset clause when it is the tax they think they are voting against. Lengthy and wordy description is used on the ballot instead of simply "yes" to keep the tax and "no" to stop the tax.

I first noticed this some 20 years ago when in a Missouri state election we were asked to decide if Union Electric could continue to collect money from it's customers to help pay for the continuing construction on the Calloway Nuclear Electric Power Plant in Calloway County, Missouri. Some collection had been alowed with a sunset clause which was expiring. The ballot wording was such that people allowed the collection to continue when they only wanted to reduce their electric bill.

Again, I saw in Poplar Bluff a few years back when people voted to eliminate a sunset clause on a temporary sales tax when they only wanted to stop the tax. Poplar Bluff voters learned too late of what they had done and an outcry errupted. Poplar Bluff City Attorney, Wally Duncan, who was responsible for wording the ballot stated it was correct and lawful while the city government, headed by City Manager, Tom Lawson, sided with the city's attorney, and the tax remained permanent.

I question if more sales tax is going to even help Sikeston. Why can't Sikeston get along within the means they have and perhaps spend more wisely, which is what most of us are required to do. Do not the proposers of this tax increase know that taxation reduces a persons ability to buy; the same as a reduction in their pay check? Reducing the paycheck results in buying less in Sikeston, therefore, reduces revenue from sales taxes. Do these proposers understand that the one cent higher sales tax will drive consumers from Sikeston to neighboring markets? Perhaps the city government of Cape Girardeau understood these things when they stopped their tax increase proposal in its' early stages of discussion just a few weeks ago.

Finally, I suggest that since it is too late to "nip it in the bud", like Cape Girardeau did, then you must turn out and vote NO on this sales tax and its' tricky sunset clause. Vote NO on this tax.

Moreover, perhaps a sales tax reduction would do the trick. Just imagine the money in resulting sales tax generated from consumers drawn to Sikeston from her neighboring and competing market cities. Imagine people coming to Sikeston, instead of going to Cape!

John Bridges Sikeston