JEFFERSON CITY – A group backed by national Democrats is coming to the aid of Gov. Jay Nixon with ads targeting 20 legislators, including one Democrat, who support an auto sales tax bill the governor vetoed.
Lawmakers return to the Missouri Capitol Wednesday to consider whether to override that veto.
The mailers were paid for by America Works USA, a nonprofit organization funded by the Democratic Governors Association.
The Democrat targeted with an ad was Rep. Genise Montecillo of St. Louis. She was one of 44 Democrats and 77 Republicans who voted in support of the bill when it passed in May. Only 21 lawmakers voted against it in the House, and it cleared the Missouri Senate unanimously.
Montecillo is also facing a Republican challenger this fall.
A spokesman for Nixon’s campaign referred questions about the mailer to the Democratic Governors Association.
DGA spokeswoman Kate Hansen said her organization targeted 20 legislators who voted for the car tax during the legislative session, but "who we believe will reconsider their position during next week's veto session."
The message of the mailer is direct: “We pour enough money into our cars. We don’t need our state legislators creating a new car tax.”
It goes on to say: “Earlier this year, our state legislature met late at night and passed a new car tax without a vote of the people. Thankfully, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the new car tax, saving Missouri families $30 million a year.” Voters are then instructed to call their state representative and tell them to support the governor’s efforts to “block this new car tax.”
The bill in question would allow local governments to continue collecting their local sales tax on vehicles purchased in another state or by an individual from another Missouri resident. The sales tax on these types of sales has been levied for decades until earlier this year, when the state Supreme Court ruled they were illegal.
The only acceptable local tax on these types of purchases, the court said, is a voter-approved “use tax.”
Proponents of the legislation say it is not a new tax. It simply reinstates the original tax that was in place for decades and fixes a loophole created by the court’s ruling that puts Missouri auto dealers at a competitive disadvantage with those in other states.
The court's ruling in essence provides a tax incentive for Missourians to buy a car in Kansas, for example, while also putting a hole in the budgets of local governments around the state, supporters argue.
Nixon, however, said the legislation did amount to a new tax without a public vote and vetoed it. Last week, he released figures from the Department of Revenue showing no local sales taxes were paid on 122,702 vehicles bought after the March 21 effective date of the court ruling. Of those, only 14,000 were vehicles purchased from out-of-state dealerships, or roughly 11 percent.
Because of a provision in the bill, all 122,702 of these individuals will receive an unexpected bill for back taxes if his veto is overturned, Nixon said.
This is not the first time Nixon and Montecillo have publicly clashed. Earlier this year Montecillo accused the governor of using "fuzzy math" to put his state budget together. In June, she criticized Nixon after he stripped from the budget $100,000 for a literacy program run by Southeast Missouri State University.
Here is a list of lawmakers targeted by America Works mailer, as provided by the DGA:
Lindell Shumake - R; Mike Cierpoit - R; T.J. Berry - R; Jay Houghton - R; Jeannie Riddle - R; Denny Hoskins - R; Wanda Brown - R; Jay Barnes - R; John Diehl - R; Rick Stream - R; Genise Monticello - D; Cloria Brown - R; Mike Leara - R; John MacCaherty - R; Mark Parkinson - R; Crissy Sommer - R; Lincoln Hough - R; Paul Fitzwater - R; Kent Hampton - R; Todd Richardson - R