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The Carthage Press
  • Local concern, skepticism about vetoes

  • Carthage city and Jasper County officials were concerned but also skeptical about the potential impacts of the state bills vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday.
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  • Carthage city and Jasper County officials were concerned but also skeptical about the potential impacts  of the state bills vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday.
    Nixon was in town to hear what local officials had to say about the impact of the loss of revenue the Governor said would have happened had he not vetoed 10 bills passed by state lawmakers in the final days of the 2014 legislative session.
    Nixon said the bills contained sales tax exemptions that could have reduced revenue coming into government coffers by $776 million, including $351 million coming to cities, counties and other local entities.
    These provisions will force tough decisions in local communities," Nixon told the local officials. "Most of these breaks are sales tax exemptions which means in addition to reducing state general revenue, they will also reduce funding for local jurisdictions like cities and counties, fire protection and ambulance districts, police departments and public libraries."
    Presiding Jasper County Commissioner John Bartosh said he was concerned about the potential loss of revenue, but he was also skeptical that it would be as bad as the Governor was making it out to be.
    He said the Department of Revenue had told county officials one particular exemption that was vetoed, one that would have exempted cars older than 10 years from sales tax, could have cost Jasper County $2 million a year.
    However, the county has never collected more than $190,000 a year on those particular transactions.
    "It's obvious we can't take a hit like this and these numbers are overwhelming," Bartosh said. "We just got this information in the last few days and we haven't had time to look these over. I've got Richard Webster, our auditor, he's trying to figure out the numbers. If these numbers are correct, we can't handle it."
    On the other hand, Carthage City Administrator Tom Short said the Missouri Municipal League has told cities that the impact of these exemptions may be even more severe than the Governor is saying.
    "The MML tracks legislation for us all during the year," Short said. This caught them totally by surprise also. There were some sales tax items that the League was following, but not these. These apparently came in at the last minute at the end of the session. The League does a good job of informing us about what's going on in the legislature and contacting our legislators about presenting the local viewpoint on what they're trying to do, but this one was totally a surprise to everybody."
    Carthage Mayor Mike Harris said the city was wrapping up its budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which starts on July 1, but if lawmakers override Nixon's veto, the city would have to make drastic changes to its budget in September, when the veto session takes place.
    Page 2 of 2 - "It's hard for municipalities like Carthage to come up with enough money to operate everything at this point," Harris said. "All these numbers you're hearing about today are new to me and new to us. It's a significant potential impact on the city and it's something that we just cannot absorb without cutting some form of services and reducing our budget."
    Harris said voters in the city approved two local sales tax proposals, an extension of a capital improvement tax and a new fire safety tax, based on promises that the city must keep.
    "The reason we were successful is because we demonstrated and proved the need we had, and we made a commitment that we would do what we said we were going to do, which is something I think we should always do," Harris said. "If you affect something that has already been passed, it's going to make it very difficult for us to pass tax issues in the future. The only way you can get it done is to show a need and provide results."

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