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Coalition prepares to launch effort to preserve Missouri's income tax

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 31, 2011 - Opponents to a proposed ballot initiative to do away with Missouri's income tax, and replace it with a larger sales tax, plan to announce Tuesday the formation of a broad-based group to fight the idea. The group is to be called the Coalition for Missouri's Future (CMF).

The coalition describes itself as "an organization of business, labor, education, health-care and civic groups that have come together to oppose bad ideas that impede Missouri's progress."

The members appear to include the largest state teachers group, the Missouri National Education Association, and several Kansas City business leaders and organizations.

It's the second major coalition to be formed to oppose the proposal to get rid of Missouri's income tax. The earlier coallition is Missourians for Fair Taxation, which was initiated by the Missouri Association of Realtors, the Missouri Budget Project, and the Missouri Broadcasters Association. That group has gone to court to challenge the ballot language for the ballot proposal

"We welcome the new coalition and the energy the NEA brings to the fight,'' said a Fair Taxation spokesman. "It will be a fight and we will need all the boots on the ground."

The bipartisan leaders of the new group include James Moody, a former state budget director and top administration official under Republican Gov John Ashcroft, and veteran Democratic activist Richard Martin. who headed Missouri's Democratic Party in the mid-1990s and ran Claire McCaskill's successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

Also on board: Mark Jorgenson, regional chief executive for U.S. Bank and board chairman of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City.

The coalition says its "first priority is to fight Rex Sinquefield's proposed constitutional amendment currently being circulated that would eliminate the state income tax and replace it with a sweeping, 10-percent statewide sales tax."

Actually, his proposals -- several are cleared for circulation -- would restrict the new statewide sales tax to 7 percent. But it also would curb local sales taxes in some areas of the state so that the overall sales tax would be no more than 10 percent.

The sales tax proposal also would expand the items covered by the tax to include most services as well as products.

Critics say that replacing Missouri's income tax with a sales tax would shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class and poor while also slashing state government's income -- thus forcing more state budget cuts.

Advocates say the shift would be a boon to economic development and the creation of more jobs, which they contend would lead to more than enough new sales taxes to replace the income tax. The group backed by Sinquefield to advance the shift, Let Voters Decide, has cited the experience in such no-income-tax states as Tennessee and Texas.

Let Voters Decide has begun running radio and a few TV spots in outstate Missouri as it begins collecting the required signatures to get at least one of the proposals on the 2012 ballot. Sources in Springfield, Mo., say that Let Voters Decide is circulating its latest version of the initiative-petition proposal.