Area lawmaker challenges proposed gas tax increase in court

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. A state representative from the Ozarks is trying to keep a proposed gasoline tax increase from appearing on Missouri's November ballot.

It's called Proposition D, and appears on the November ballot asking voters to increase the motor fuel tax by a total of 10-cents over the next four years AND exempt Olympians from state taxes AND establish the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund.

That's all on the same question on the ballot.

"I think there's going to be some confusion," explained Republican state representative Mike Moon of Lawrence, who's filed a lawsuit in Cole County circuit court in Jeff City, arguing that the referendum violates the Missouri Constitution because it deals with two separate topics.

"You've got first a tax deduction (the Olympic medalist tax break) and then you've got a tax increase (the gas sales tax)," Moon explained. "And so if they're conflicted, how do they vote?"

The original bill was to give Olympic medal winners a tax break, but in the closing hours of this year's session legislators tacked on the gas tax issue, which will generate at least $288 million dollars with money going to road construction and maintenance as well as law enforcement.

"As it is amended during the process it's typical for a bill to be changed," Moon explained. "But the amendments are not legally constitutional if they're being changed from their original purpose. And obviously I believe that House Bill 1460 did change the original purpose."

Rep. Jean Evans, a fellow Republican who sponsored the bill, released a statement saying she was disappointed that Moon is filing the lawsuit, saying it is without merit and that she's confident it will withstand the legal test.

"Representative Evans is a friend," Moon said. "But if this bill were
drafted and passed according to the constitution, I wouldn't have a dog in the hunt here."

Moon sites a precedent of a 2014 legislative bill that was thrown out by the same judge who'll be handling his lawsuit.

"The bill I believe had about 19 different subjects," he recalled. "He threw out the whole bill. Because it's going to his court and because we have a case that's set the precedent, I think we'll be successful."

And to those who say why not just let voters decide, Moon says he believes legislators shouldn't be passing the buck on issues that they aren't willing to decide themselves.

"That's copping out on the authority that we've been given," he said. "It makes it easy (on legislators). But I don't think it's right."