Gov. Jay Nixon today met with local soil and water district board members and community leaders in Nodaway County for a roundtable discussion regarding legislation passed by the General Assembly that would reduce state and local revenues by $776 million annually, including $5 million from the state's soil and water conservation districts. Over the past several months, local officials on both sides of the aisle -- including more than 50 municipalities and organizations -- have come forward to voice their opposition to these bills.
"Throughout the past thirty years, Missouri voters have repeatedly gone to the ballot box to strengthen their communities by approving targeted initiatives like the parks, soils and water sales tax," Gov. Nixon said. "Now, these efforts are at risk because the Missouri General Assembly has passed legislation that would undercut these voter-approved services -- all for the sake of giving a select few special interests a special break."
On June 11, Gov. Nixon vetoed 10 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.
"This isn't about politics, it's about fiscal discipline and common sense," Gov. Nixon said. "That's why local leaders on both sides of the aisle have stood up for their communities and voiced their concerns about these irresponsible and unnecessary measures."
Most of the special tax carve-outs and loopholes passed by the legislature would reduce sales tax collections, and as a result 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.
While meeting with officials in Nodaway County, Gov. Nixon also raised concerns about the significant funding reduction to public schools that would occur if the bills he vetoed were to become law.
In 1982, Missouri voters approved Proposition C, a one-cent sales tax designated to provide additional funds for public schools. Because the legislation passed by General Assembly would reduce sales tax collections, revenue generated by Proposition C would be reduced by $93.7 million, including a reduction of more than $266,000 to school districts in Nodaway County.
"When you shrink a revenue stream tied directly to education, schools across Missouri will see significant cuts," Gov. Nixon said. "This may not have been the legislature's intent, but it would undoubtedly be the result if my vetoes are not sustained."
The Missouri General Assembly will return for its annual veto session this September.