JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — The Missouri House passed a measure Thursday that would waive penalties for those who agree to pay overdue state taxes — a move estimated to generate $20 million for the proposed state budget.
The House is to consider a 2016 budget plan next week that assumes passage of the tax amnesty legislation, even though similar proposals have stalled in the Senate in previous years.
It's fairly common for House budget plans to assume revenues from measures that have not yet been signed into law. But this year marks the first in which the governor has been constitutionally prohibited from doing the same thing.
Democratic Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, of Kansas City, said she supports the tax amnesty proposal but thinks it was hypocritical for the House to allocate money that might not be available, after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November blocking the governor from doing it. That constitutional amendment had been referred to the ballot by the Legislature.
"We told the governor he couldn't do that, but here we are doing it," she said.
The House voted 141-7 in favor of the tax amnesty measure, but it would still need the Senate's approval. Opponents have blocked it in that chamber in previous years.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said he continues to oppose a tax amnesty because it gives an unfair benefit to some people.
"The person who paid the penalty and interest one day before the Legislature creates the amnesty program is put at a big disadvantage to the person who doesn't do that," he said.
The tax amnesty proposal allows taxpayers with unpaid taxes before December 31, 2014 to pay their bills between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2015. It includes sales, use, corporate and individual income tax collected by the Department of Revenue. Anyone paying back taxes under the program would have to comply with the state's tax laws for eight years or be liable for the waived penalties.
Legislative researchers estimate the measure would bring in nearly $20 million in additional general revenues next fiscal year.
If the money ends up not being available, "we go back and programs are going to be cut," McCann Beatty said.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, said after Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State address in January that it was "disingenuous" of him to include revenues dependent on legislative proposals in his remarks. But the constitutional restriction does not apply to the Legislature, Flanigan said Thursday.
Flanigan, who also sponsored the tax amnesty bill, said he thinks this will be the year the Legislature passes it.
"We've kind of figured out some of the obstacles," he said.
Nixon did not include additional money from proposals such as a tax amnesty and Medicaid expansion in his official budget proposal, but he did include suggestions for what that money could be used for in a summary and proclamation sent to lawmakers.
The House is scheduled to consider the budget next week.
Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said he would be wary of including revenues from uncertain sources in the budget.
"We've had an objection to that in the past, booking revenue on legislation that hasn't passed," Dempsey said.
Tax amnesty bill is HB 384.