A failure to prioritize


“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
Mark Twain

Twain’s quote is still valid today and it means we must all be vigilant when the legislature is in session…as it is now.

I attended our local ‘Pub Central Committee meeting last night and one of our local state Representatives spoke and gave a summary of bills coming to the legislature.  One, a rehash of last year’s HB 653, a 911 tax, caught my attention. In December, a Missouri newspaper reviewed the proposal with a no-so-friendly conclusion.

It was originally advertised as an aid to smaller counties, smaller as in lower population, lower tax base and income, to provide 911 services by adding a 911 tax. What they fail to note is that 911 taxes are already present and many counties, like my own Cass County, has additional, county-wide sales tax to support 911 service.

Like most government initiatives, the money collected by this new 911 bill would go to the state to be ‘distributed’ to individual counties from the state treasury. The current 911 sales tax goes directly to the county, not the state and doesn’t give the state an opportunity to slice off their ‘administrative’ costs.

I fail to see why we, in Cass County, should pay for 911 services in another county? If 911 was such a critical need, I’m sure that county could find some way to finance their 911 service. In the end, that is the purpose of this bill, to have other counties finance 911 services of those counties who can’t or won’t finance the service themselves.

I also note that some counties, Jackson, St Louis and a couple of others, are excluded. Why? I would think if this tax was applied solely to them, there would be enough revenue to fund the ‘poverty-sticken’ counties without the need to soak the rest of the counties in the state.

I found, during my research, that this bill has been submitted before—every year since 2011 and has yet to survive to a vote on the floor. That bit of information right there should be a warning to anyone contemplating an approving vote for this bill. The more I look at it, this bill is nothing more than another state tax scheme to gather money to allow the state to dispense as largess to ‘needy’ constituent counties—bribe money, in other words.

There is a more troubling component to this bill. The bill would tax “every device” capable of calling 911. In this technological age, that includes land-lines, mobile phones, iPads, Android tables, personal computers, and laptops.  All of these devices, including the personal and hand-held computers with the appropriate software, can make a 911 call. For me, that includes one land-line, two mobile phones, three laptops, three…no, four android tablets, and four personal computers that could, if necessary, be used to make a 911 call.

If this bill was passed, just how would the state determine how many devices I actually had? Kick in my door in the middle of the night as has happened to others who had overdue library books?

Another provision of this proposal would be to invalidate county 911 sales taxes, a tax that my own Cass County passed as did Taney County and others. Prior legislation authorized counties to use a sales tax to fund their 911 facilities. Why would this bill, this new version of last year’s HB 653, do away with that?

The answer is simple, some counties aren’t willing to foot the bill and want a bill, this one, to allow them to use other counties as a funding source. In scientific circles, that is known as parasitism.

It’s an old adage: people get the government they deserve. If a county will not fund critical services, they should not attempt to steal funding from others and that, folks, is exactly why this bill has been submitted.

Call your state representatives and urge them to kill this new proposal. I haven’t been able to find the new house bill number, but when it appears, it will be easy to recognize by the legal gun in your ribs while the money in your wallet is taken.