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Car Tax Legislation Passes House, Heads To Senate

State Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, introduces HB1 during the 2019 Special Session on Sept. 11, 2019.
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio
State Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, sponsored the legislation that allows Missourians to trade in multiple vehicles to reduce sales tax when buying a newer model.

The Missouri House approved a measure Wednesday to allow car buyers to trade in multiple vehicles to reduce sales tax responsibility when buying a newer model. 

Gov. Mike Parson decided to call a special legislative session on the sales tax issue after a Supreme Court decision in June. He’s received repeated criticism from Democrats for calling the session for what some consider a minor issue. 

“It makes no sense to prioritize tax breaks for few, over the lives of Missourians who die nearly every day due to gun violence,” said Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. “It makes no sense for the administration to continue to insist everything is fine with the state’s Medicaid system when we continue to hear story after story from working Missourians with life-threatening conditions who, without any explanation, lost their health care coverage.” 

Parson has repeatedly said those issues are better suited for the regular session that begins in January. 

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, didn’t say whether he believed the topic deserved this urgency. 

“That’s not really my decision,” he said. “If the governor thinks it’s important, we were going to be up here for the veto session anyways. It’s an issue we could work on. It was an issue that you saw had pretty broad support.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, said it was imperative to pass the legislation swiftly — not only to abide by the law, but to save money for taxpayers. 

“This impacts someone who may have lost their spouse and they need to trade in those two cars to get a good, reliable car,” Ruth said. “This impacts senior citizens who are trying to downsize. This impacts just normal, everyday working people.”

The measure passed 126 to 21. Despite their objection to the session, several Democrats did support the bill, which also covers trailers, boats and outboard motors. Some of those who voted in opposition said they’re concerned the state could be missing out on money to repair roads and bridges. 

Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, introduced an amendment to allow only individuals and businesses with fewer than 12 employees to take advantage of the reduced sales tax. This was in response to concerns that the bill would largely benefit big corporations with car fleets. The idea failed to earn enough support to pass. 

The proposal now goes to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass Friday.

Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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Jaclyn is the Jefferson City statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.