Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce today met with local soil and water district board members in Stoddard County for a roundtable discussion regarding legislation passed by the General Assembly that would reduce funding for the state's soil and water conservation districts by $5 million annually.
"Time and time again, Missouri voters have stepped up to protect our natural resources by approving targeted initiatives like the parks, soils and water sales tax," Gov. Nixon said. "Unfortunately, the legislature is undercutting the will of the voters in order to benefit select special interests."
On June 11, Gov. Nixon vetoed a number of bills containing more than a dozen special tax carve-outs and loopholes. These provisions were passed by the General Assembly in the final hours of the legislative session and were not accounted for in the budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which begins July 1. These provisions are estimated to reduce state and local revenues by more than $776 million annually, including a $425.1 million annual reduction in state sales tax collections and a $351.4 million reduction in local sales revenues.
"With no guarantee that the Governor's vetoes will be sustained, soil and water districts around the state should begin planning for a $5 million revenue reduction and substantially fewer agriculture protection projects for the next fiscal year," Director Fordyce said. "Both as a farmer and as former chairman of the Missouri State Soil and Water Districts Commission, I understand what this will mean for our agriculture sector, and it is our hope that rural Missouri will not face such a negative impact."
Because the special tax carve-outs and loopholes passed by the legislature would reduce sales tax collections, they will have a significant impact on dedicated funds for Missouri's Soil and Water Conservation Program.
Projections by Missouri's Office of Budget and Planning estimate that if the provisions vetoed by the Governor were to become law, they would reduce funding for the program by more than $5 million annually.
In 1984, Missouri voters approved a one-tenth-of-one-percent parks, soils and water sales tax to fund state parks and soil and water conservation efforts. Prior to the passage of the sales tax, Missouri had the second highest rate of erosion in the nation. Since then, Missouri's erosion rate dropped more than any other state, with more than 148 million tons of soil having been saved in the past three decades.
Voters reauthorized the sales tax in 1988, 1996 and 2006. In 2006, more than 70 percent of Missouri voters approved this dedicated funding mechanism.
The dedicated revenue from the one-tenth-of-one-percent parks, soils and water sales tax is used to fund financial incentives for landowners to implement conservation practices that help prevent soil erosion and protect water resources. In Fiscal Year 2014, the Soil and Water Conservation Program has funded more than $23 million worth of projects throughout the state.
The Soil and Water Districts Commission is made up of district boards in each of the 114 counties. Soil and water conservation district staff provide technical support with the design, implementation and maintenance of practices.