JEFFERSON CITY - It is a simple variable in a complex equation, but if a Missouri court decides the state miscalculated total state revenue for 1980-81, taxpayer refunds could increase by more than $130 million.
"The government is taking more from taxpayers than it can rightfully be taking," claimed Rep. Gary Marble, R-Neosho. Marble filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning that asks the Cole County Circuit Court to force Missouri to boost taxpayer refunds by $133.65 million. Sen. Francis Flotron, R-Chesterfield, and Associated Industries of Missouri, a business group, are also involved in the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status from the court.
The challenge was sparked by a decision reached by the Missouri Supreme Court.
In June, the high court held that the conservation sales tax, passed on the same ballot as a state revenue and spending limit, the Hancock Amendment, is not part of total state revenue. That figure is a key component in the equation used to determine Missouri's maximum tax assessment.
When conservation sales tax receipts are excluded, total state revenue for 1980-81 drops by about $30 million. This, in turn, decreases the amount the state is allowed to collect from taxpayers.
Marble claims previous overassessments were not properly refunded and taxpayers are owed: $10.68 million for 1995, $12.02 million for 1996, $14.64 million for 1997, and $96.31 million for 1998.
Not so, said Missouri's budget director.
"The law of the Hancock Amendment changed this summer, so the first opportunity to make a change in the refund was the current refund that is being mailed out now," said Mark Ward, deputy commissioner of budget and planning for the state.
Refund checks totalling more than $178 million will have been distributed throughout the state by the end of the year. They will hit Columbia's mailboxes in early December.
"I believe those are errant numbers on the checks and the taxpayers are owed more," Marble said.
There shouldn't be a problem finding the money, Marble said.
"Half of the $133 million is already appropriated, passed into law and is sitting in the bank," explained Marble. "I don't believe its a stretch to think we can come up with another $60-70 million to give back to the taxpayers."