The series of special interest sales tax exemptions passed by the General Assembly in the final hours of the legislative session would reduce funding for wildlife conservation, state parks, and soil and water conservation efforts by $245.7 million over the next decade and undermine Missouri's thriving outdoor economy, Gov. Jay Nixon said today.
"For decades, these voter-approved resources for conservation and state parks have helped make Missouri a national leader in wildlife and soil and water conservation and outdoor recreation," Gov. Nixon said. "Unfortunately, the grab bag of sales tax breaks passed by the General Assembly would siphon these resources away from our parks and conservation areas, and redirect them to a select few special interests."
The Department of Conservation is funded through a one-eighth of one percent conservation sales tax approved as a constitutional amendment through a citizen initiative process and statewide vote in 1976. These funds are used to carry out the Department's responsibility to protect and manage the state's forest, fish and wildlife resources for all Missourians to use and enjoy.
In 1984, Missouri voters approved a separate one-tenth-of-one-percent parks and soil and water sales tax to fund state parks and soil and water conservation efforts. In 2006, more than 70 percent of Missouri voters reauthorized this dedicated funding mechanism, which has helped farmers reduce erosion and make Missouri State Parks among the most decorated in the country. Missouri was recently voted America's favorite place to camp and was named the 2013 Best Trails State by American Trails.
On June 11, Gov. Nixon vetoed a number of bills containing more than a dozen special tax carve-outs and loopholes and passed by the General Assembly in the final hours of the legislative session. This package of special breaks includes new sales tax exemptions for fast food restaurants, large commercial dry cleaners, personal seat licenses at stadiums, and power companies.
Most of these special breaks are sales tax exemptions, which would reduce the number of items that are subject to the conservation sales tax and the parks and soil and water tax, therefore reducing the amount of revenue these voter-approved measures generate.
Projections by Missouri's Office of Budget and Planning estimate that if the provisions vetoed by the Governor were to become law, over the next decade funding for the Department of Conservation would be reduced by $137.2 million and revenues from the parks and soil and water tax would be reduced by $108.5 million.
"Gutting funding for the programs that support Missouri's outdoor economy in order to give fast food restaurants and power companies a special tax break will not move our state forward," Gov. Nixon said. "It's time for the legislature to abandon this ill-conceived approach and commit to sustaining my vetoes of these bills."
An economic impact study for the Missouri state park system released in 2012 reported that the total annual expenditure of state parks visitors in 2011 was approximately $778 million. The overall economic impact of these expenditures is estimated at $1.02 billion in sales, $307 million in payroll and related income, and $123 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Also, visitors' expenditures support 14,535 jobs in Missouri.