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Real estate group ratcheting up its opposition to 'fair tax'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2011 - The Missouri Association of Realtors' board of directors, representing more than 18,000 members, has announced its opposition to the effort to replace the state's income tax with a higher sales tax. The association says that the change could result in sales taxes on property sales.

The board said today that it had voted on Friday against the so-called "fair tax," as the proposed sales tax hike is called. The board's stance wasn't surprising, since the trade group donated $135,000 in March to the political organization -- Missourians for Fair Taxation -- set up to oppose the "fair tax."

Missourians for Fair Taxation spokesman Scott Charton said the resolution and the announcement were aimed at underscoring that "they've decide to go 'full out' on this."

"They're mainly now making a push to get more groups and inidivudals into a statewide coalition," Charton added.

The board took note in its announcement of the nine various initiative-petition proposals in favor of asking Missouri voters in 2012 to approve the "fair tax," and eliminate the state income tax. All the versions, says the real estate group, would "mandate new, higher sales taxes on countless transactions and services they use every day," including property sales.

Wealthy financier Rex Sinquefield is the prime backer behind the effort to eliminate the state's income tax, which he and his allies maintain would spur more job growth. Sinquefield is helping to backroll a group called "Let Voters Decide," which last year won statewide approval of a measure that bars local communities from enacting an earnings tax.

Efforts were unsuccessful Monday to reach the pro-fair tax group or a Sinquefield spokesman.

Opponents say the measure would simply shift the tax burden to lower-income Missourians and cite a study by former state budget director Jim Moody.

The initiative petitions would cap the statewide tax at 7 percent, up from the 4 percent that it is now. Critics also assert that the sales tax would need to be much higher to collect the same amount of revenue that now comes from the income tax. That concern was a key reason the General Assembly failed to approve a "fair tax" proposal last session, although several prominent Republicans support the idea.  Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican about to run for governor, has said the fair tax and eliminating the income tax are ideas worth discussing but he's not formally endorsing anything now.

The real estate group also notes that it had success last year when it led the drive that led to overwhelming statewide approval of Amendment 3, which bars any future additional taxes on real estate, most notably a transfer tax, which is not now levied in Missouri.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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