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Gov. Mike Parson discusses COVID-19, Medicaid and Missouri’s new online sales tax during visit to Springfield

Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 7:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Governor Mike Parson is spending most of his July 4th weekend in the Ozarks with stops in Springfield, Branson and some time at his home in Bolivar.

On Friday he had a ceremonial signing at Maxon Fine Jewelry in Springfield where he visited with KY3 about a number of topics on the minds of Missouri residents these days.

Parson was at Maxon to sign SB 153 and 97 into law, two bills that make Missouri the final state in the country to start collecting an internet sales tax.

Brick-and-mortar stores took a hit during the pandemic when the lock down forced many of them to shut down. Meanwhile more and more people started buying on-line and those retailers were not subject to the same state sales tax laws that local businesses were.

That changed with the passage of the bills that at the start of 2023 will require internet companies that have annual sales in the state of of at least $100,000 to start paying a use tax.

The new law was lauded as a victory for the more than 570,000 brick-and-mortar businesses in the state like Maxon Fine Jewelry.

“Really it boils down to leveling the playing field,” said Jessica Olson, a Maxon Managing Partner. “During the pandemic lots of people were shopping on line and that was a necessity. We were a non-essential business and we even had to be closed for six weeks. This is not a raise in taxes. This is a new revenue stream for the state that other states already have.”

“Not to disparage any on-line purchasing, but we want to treat our local folks fairly and we really want to support them,” added Springfield Mayor Ken McClure. “That’s been the argument all along because I’ve looked at it as impacting people. Business owners, employees and their families. "

One lesser known part of the Wayfair on-line sales tax bill is that it has $380 million worth of income tax breaks for Missourians.

“We used to have the income tax here in Missouri at six percent and by attaching it to the Wayfair bill and bringing it down to 4.8 (percent), the economy’s still growing and we’re doing well,” Parson said. “At the same time we’re giving everyday citizens a break on their income tax. So it’s a win-win for everybody. A win for the businesses and a win for the citizens.”

During the interview Parson also talked about the state’s dubious distinction of having the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in the country due to its low vaccination rate and the new variants.

“I think the Delta variant, nobody was kind of expecting that,” he said. “We thought we were getting ahead in that game and we are, but we still have to realize that we were never at the finish line on that one. The reality is at the end of the day everybody’s got to take care of themselves and their healthcare. We know now that everybody has the opportunity to take a vaccine if they want a vaccine. But you have to understand that there is going to be some hesitancy in our state along with the other states. Nobody’s got this figured out yet. But we’ve got to encourage as many people to take the vaccine as possible. The good news for our state is over 80 percent of the most vulnerable population has been vaccinated. Those 65-and-older and unhealthier people. We know that has reduced the hospitalization and fatality rate in our state. So we know that it works.”

Right now though some 275,000 Missourians eligible for expanded Medicaid that was approved by voters may not be getting the medical help they need because the legislature didn’t fund the expansion in the budget.

So now the future of Medicaid expansion rests with the Missouri Supreme Court, who will hear arguments on July 13. T he case is being heard on appeal after Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem ruled the voter-approved amendment unconstitutional on June 23 because the new law didn’t provide a way for the state to pay for the expansion.

On Thursday around 100 protesters gathered outside the Governor’s Mansion to express support for Medicaid expansion with some of them pointing out that people with bad health conditions might not survive until the matter might be taken up again by the legislature next year.

So what does Parson tell those people?

“With everything we have coming down the pipelines from the federal government I think immediately there’s help for anybody that needs help right now,” he said. “Whether it’s rental assistance, utilities, food or healthcare, there’s resources right now to fix that. That’s from the federal package that came down. Long term, the process is what it is. The legislature did not fund that and that’s part of the process. They are going to have to go back next year and they’re gonna have to see if they can get it to pass. If they don’t, they don’t. And we’ll see what the courts do with it.”

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