Missouri Auditor set to appeal court ruling on state tax initiative
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Missouri Auditor set to appeal court ruling on state tax initiative

Date: April 16, 2012
By: Matthew Patane
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's state auditor said Monday that he will appeal a court ruling made last week about a ballot issue to repeal the state's income tax.

In the ruling, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce declared the financial analysis made by Auditor Tom Schweich "insufficient, unfair (and) likely to deceive."

Schweich said he was appealing the ruling because his office believed the original analysis provided an "accurate range of possible impacts" that was the best they could provide with the information given to the auditor's office.

Joyce's ruling stated that the two versions of the tax initiative would cost $7.5 billion in general revenue each year, without a guarantee of this revenue coming back to the state. Missouri is currently estimated to collect about $8 billion in general revenue each year. Joyce also declared that neither Schweich nor the Secretary of State, who is in charge of writing descriptions for ballots that Missourians will see in the upcoming election, told this to voters.

The ballot issue, which was put forth by St. Louis conservative activist Rex Sinquefield, proposes to eliminate Missouri's income tax and replace it with a broader sales tax. Schweich's estimate of the initiative stated that the tax overhaul could affect state revenue by either providing it with $300 million or decreasing it by $1.5 billion.

If the ruling stands, the auditor would be required to submit a new fiscal analysis of the tax initiative but there are about three weeks left to attain signatures for petitions. This situation puts pressure on Let Voters Decide, the Sinquefield-backed group behind the initiative, to gather more than 100,000 signatures necessary before the May 6 deadline.

After the release of the ruling, Travis Brown, who is in charge of the Let Voters Decide ballot measure, issued a statement saying the ruling "disrespects Missouri's balanced budget amendment." Brown also said the group was looking over the "errors" in the Joyce's opinion and "reviewing all options," which include appealing the ruling.

Joyce issued her ruling and opinion of the case, which was filed before the court last October, late Friday night. This ruling marks the third time a Cole County Circuit judge has issued a ruling on a ballot initiative striking down the initiative's summary. The other two cases involved ballot issues that would alter state laws concerning payday loans and taxing tobacco.

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