Web exclusive: Missourians approve all statewide ballot measures

From the Missouri Digital News State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY – Tax-restriction measures won easy approval from Missourians last week.

Voters approved a ban on taxing real estate sales, a restriction on earnings taxes by local communities and to provide a property tax exemption on the homes of former POWs with total service-incurred disabilities.

But the big surprise of the night the close margin for the heavily-financed measure to restrict dog breeders. With all but a handful of precincts reporting by the end of the night, Proposition B was narrowly ahead.

The campaign for the measure had been funded by more than $2 million in campaign contributions and heavily promoted by the Humane Society of the United States.

But it had run into stiff opposition from dog breeders as well as veterinarian associations.

“I appreciate the efforts put forth by the animal welfare people,” said Jon Kimes, who breeds dogs in the Kansas City area. “But I think that this bill was put together by people who aren’t very knowledgeable about keeping and breeding dogs, and who aren’t very knowledgeable about what the outcome of this legislation could be.”

“Because this law does a really terrible job of defining a puppy mill, it has the potential to impact every breeder,” said Kimes. “And what frightens me a little bit is you can take an issue like this, where you have to have some in-depth knowledge, and you can paint it at an emotional level to appeal to every Tom, Dick and Harry who knows nothing about breeding dogs, and word it in a way that people won’t vote against it.”

The measure would have prohibited having more than 50 breeding dogs and imposed requirements on those with more than ten breeding dogs.

Supporters of the bill say Missouri has a serious problem with abusive dog breeders that can only be addressed with thorough legislation. They point to the dozens of raids that are conducted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture every year.

“It’s an agricultural model applied to dog production,” said Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States. “These are factory farms for dogs.”

The earnings tax measure had been funded by $6.8 million in contributions from a single person to get the measure on the ballot. After securing signatures to put the measure on the ballot, retired St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield refused any comment on the measure.

In total, Sinquefield gave more than $10.7 million in support of Proposition A. He accounted for almost all of the funding behind Let Voters Decide, the group leading the campaign for the issue.

The proposal will require St. Louis and Kansas City to submit their earnings tax to the voters for re-authorization every five years.

Every other city in the state would be prohibited from enacting an earnings tax. The effect of that ban may be more in appearance than substance. Prior to adoption of Proposition A, legislative authorization already had been required for a city to enact an earnings tax. The requirements for cities to gain approval for an earnings tax would not change — except for the legislative power of the Missouri General Assembly to amend a provision adopted by the voters.

Unlike the earnings tax, the real estate transfer tax ban, which was brought to the ballot to amend Missouri’s constitution, was a proposal that does not affect any existing tax in the state. The amendment’s supporters argued the amendment prevented the implementation of a real estate transfer tax.

“In this economy when people are losing their jobs — many people have suffered a loss in income — to have an additional tax on a piece of property could certainly affect somebody’s ability to own their home and achieve the American dream,” said Elizabeth Mendenhall, president of the Missouri Association of Realtors.

Another measure, the POW residential tax break measure, provides tax exceptions to veterans who served and were held captive as prisoners of war. According to the Missouri Veterans Commission, there are 100 Missouri POW veterans.