JEFFERSON CITY - A legislative panel on taxes has been charged to investigate ways state taxes could be lowered, Sen. Harry Wiggins, D-Kansas City, said Thursday.
"We want to come up with some recommendations of a modern, efficient, fair tax structure," said Wiggins, who chairs the committee. "Obviously if we find some reductions which should be made, we will recommend that."
Wiggins said Senate President Pro Tem Ed Quick, D-Liberty, charged the committee to look carefully at any possibility of reducing taxes, but keeping in mind any effects lowering taxes would have on education, health care and law enforcement funding.
The panel, made up of senators, was convened to recommend tax changes to the general assembly before its next session.
Wiggins said he wants to look at reforming the sales tax.
"I think the sales tax is getting too high in some parts of the state because of local initiative," he said.
State sales tax is 4.225 cents on the dollar, while sales tax in Columbia is 6.975 cents. Columbians raised the sales tax to that level in July, 1991.
Other committee members said they are relieved that the panel has been formed to review the tax laws.
"We have about $300 million in Hancock overage and there has been three or four years of refunds and multiple tax cuts without any long term plan," said member Sen. Frank Flotron, R-St. Louis County, said. The Hancock Amendment is a constitutional cap on state revenue. When revenue exceeds that limit, the surplus is refunded to taxpayers.
Committee member Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis County, said refunding the surplus is costly.
"We have been over-collecting for so long," Yeckel said. "It is better to leave it in the people's pockets."
The committee's approach toward the investigation will be comprehensive.
"We intend to look at the entire tax structure of Missouri, not just sales tax, not just income tax, not just franchise tax, the whole apple," Wiggins said. "We will review it as to its effectiveness and its current applicability."
Wiggins is concerned about raising false hopes among the public.
"I don't want to promise people something we can't do," he said.
Wiggins said the committee will hold a three day public hearing to hear public comment in mid- November in the state Capitol.