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Sinquefield adds $1.2 million more to effort to replace state income tax with sales tax

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 27, 2012 - Retired financier Rex Sinquefield has continued to put his money where his message is, by donating another $1.2 million this week to the initiative-petition effort to phase out Missouri's income tax and replace it with a higher sales tax.

Sinquefield's $1.224 million contribution is in addition to $1.3 million that he gave last fall to Let Voters Decide, the group  leading the campaign to get a proposal on this fall's ballot.

Let Voters Decide has gotten several initiative-petition proposals approved for circulation. Although the proposals are different, all call for replacing the state's 6 percent income tax with a state sales tax that would go no higher that 7 percent from the current peak of 4.225 percent.

Some proposals cap local or regional sales taxes, so that the overall sales tax would be no more than 10 percent.

Sinquefield and his allies say the change would attract businesses and boost the state's economy by creating more jobs, which would lead to more sales tax money. Critics say the shift would exacerbate the state's existing financial problems, harm local communities where voters have approved sales taxes, and force dramatic cuts in state and local services -- thus, hurting Missouri's economy.

Travis H. Brown, president of Let Voters Decide, said in a statement, "Our coalition continues to gain momentum as we talk with voters all throughout the state. We are thankful to have such strong support from Rex Sinquefield, who is a force for good in Missouri. Thanks to this generous support, we are putting forth a real jobs plan for Missouri voters to consider."

Brown noted that the neighboring state of Kansas also is considering changes in its tax system. "There's a big game coming up between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Mizzou Tigers, but basketball isn't the only thing that should be competitive between our two states," said Brown.

Scott Charton, spokesman for Missourians for Fair Taxation -- one of the groups actively opposing the tax change -- replied,  "Its answer is to throw more and more money behind its awful proposal, but they cannot sell it to working class Missourians. They have a billionaire benefactor with an agenda, but even a billionaire gets just one vote.

"We have tens of thousands of real Missourians on our side and our coalition is growing every day with real people who will reject this bad idea to put a huge sales tax on almost everything Missouri families buy every day," Charton added.

Let Voters Decide has until May 6 to turn in the roughly 160,000 signatures needed from registered voters to get its proposal on a statewide ballot this year.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.