Tuesday, October 04, 2016
Ed Emery; Contribution limits an unacceptable violation of your individual liberties
There are five constitutional amendments and one proposition that are to be voted on statewide during the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Here is the ballot language and my recommendation on each one.
Constitutional Amendment 1:
“Shall Missouri continue for 10 years the one-tenth of one percent sales/use tax that is used for soil and water conservation and for state parks and historic sites, and resubmit this tax to the voters for approval in 10 years?”
Amendment 1 is a continuation of the soil and water conservation tax, which generates about $90 million annually, and, among other things, supports state parks. The amendment would extend the existing tax collection for 10 years. I believe this tax has proved itself useful, and I have no strong opinions for or against its continuation. We do have a good state park network and I expect the tax to be continued.
Constitutional Amendment 2:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: establish limits on campaign contributions by individuals or entities to political parties, political committees, or committees to elect candidates for state or judicial office; prohibit individuals and entities from intentionally concealing the source of such contributions; require corporations or labor organizations to meet certain requirements in order to make such contributions; and provide a complaint process and penalties for any violations of this amendment?”
Amendment 2 aims to limit campaign contributions you and others can make to a candidate. I am strongly opposed to this initiative because I believe it is an unacceptable violation of individual liberties and economic freedom. Why should the government be allowed to dictate how you or your neighbors use the funds you have earned and saved? Why should government block or limit how much you can promote the candidate of your choosing? That is the height of intrusive government. The strongest supporters of campaign contribution limits are likely to be existing office holders. Campaign donation limits protect incumbents by making it more difficult for a challenger to raise money while an incumbent can still raise money easily. Transparency is the greatest asset that voters can have and campaign contribution limits significantly complicate transparency and make it easy to obscure donations.
Constitutional Amendment 3:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20;
create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually; and deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?”
Amendment 3 is another cigarette tax increase, which I continue to oppose for several reasons. I do not smoke nor do I think smoking is wise, but no matter how well-meaning, similar taxes on casino gambling in support of schools have shown themselves to be counterproductive. They make government revenues dependent on people’s vices, and that seems rather cynical to me. In addition, for the first time ever, Amendment 3 is attempting to put the terms “abortion” and “abortion services” in the Missouri Constitution. Amendment 3 is opposed by conservative groups such as Concerned Women for America of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Freedom and United for Missouri. I agree with Bev Ehlen, Missouri State Director of Concerned Women for America, who said “I believe placing abortions of any type in the Missouri Constitution for an effort to provide more funds to early childhood education in the state is problematic in many ways.”
Constitutional Amendment 4:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit a new state or local sales/use or other similar tax on any service or transaction that was not subject to a sales/use or similar tax as of January 1, 2015?”
Amendment 4 was initiated by the Missouri Realtors Association, and is purely a special interest attempt to change the Constitution to benefit realtors. The realtors fear the loss of commissions if Missouri ever eliminates the state income tax and adopts a fair tax model and the association believes that passage of Amendment 4 would prohibit such a move. I strongly oppose it because I believe the most powerful economic development tool we could implement is replacing the state income tax with a retail consumption tax, and the real estate agents are misguided in their assessment of the way the fair tax would affect their revenues. I am very disappointed that they have taken this approach, which is absolutely counter to good tax policy. Amendment 4 is extremely deceptive.
Constitutional Amendment 6:
“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”
Amendment 6 is a common-sense voter ID proposal, which I absolutely support. Special care has been taken in crafting the proposal to ensure that no one is disenfranchised by its passage. In fact, its many provisions virtually guarantee that any Missouri resident who is qualified and has a desire to vote will be able to vote, but those who have no right to vote will be blocked.
“Shall Missouri law be amended to: increase taxes on cigarettes in 2017, 2019, and 2021, at which point this additional tax will total 23 cents per pack of 20; increase the tax paid by sellers on other tobacco products by 5 percent of manufacturer’s invoice price;
use funds generated by these taxes exclusively to fund transportation infrastructure projects; and repeal these taxes if a measure to increase any tax or fee on cigarettes or other tobacco products is certified to appear on any local or statewide ballot?”
Proposition A is an initiative petition, which was placed on the ballot by special interest groups, which gathered enough signatures statewide to have it come before the voters. Basically, it is another approach to the cigarette “sin” tax proposed in Constitutional Amendment 3. I have the same general opposition to it because such taxes have proven to be ineffective and often prey on those least able to afford them.