During the 2020 Missouri legislative session, the Republicans put a constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot disrespecting two-thirds of Missouri voters who passed “Clean Missouri” in every Senate district only two years ago. Missouri voters approved that wise plan to redistrict legislative state districts by a professional nonpartisan demographer to draw up the required new Census district maps. Missouri Republicans fear that professionally drawn districts will weaken their armlock on our state’s neck and want November election voters to give them back their old system to ensure their Republican chokehold.
The consequence of the Republican Party dominating with such a supermajority is that their ultra-conservative dogma is strangling our ability to keep up with the other 49 states. Missouri has been moving to the back of the line compared with other states for more than a decade. Two Republican failures in the past legislative session illustrate my point. They failed to address two essential issues that are keeping Missouri at the bottom of the barrel: internet sales tax and infrastructure funding.
Republicans failed to pass the Wayfair internet tax legislation for Missouri to join 48 other states in collecting sales tax from internet sales. By not taxing internet sales in Missouri, the Republicans turned their back on retailers and all levels of government who were hurting even prior to COVID-19 as internet sales were climbing and retail sales were in decline and the pandemic has magnified these problems exponentially.
There are cataclysmic consequences for not taxing internet sales. When retail establishments cannot compete and reopen then we will live in ghost towns of shuttered stores and shops making our existence monotonous, austere, and impersonal just like in quarantine. Worse yet, our cities, counties, and state will not be able to afford even our basic needs of police protection and infrastructure maintenance.
Our Republican legislators also failed to address the highway infrastructure of our state. Although Missouri has the 7th most highways in the nation to maintain we continue to collect less fuel tax than 46 other states. As a former mayor and councilman, I took the responsibility for Florissant infrastructure very seriously so I am amazed at the indifference of Republican legislators to funding Missouri’s highways.
A decade ago, Missouri benefited from a balanced mix of representation from both the Republican and Democratic parties in our state legislature resulting in a bipartisan approach to good governance putting people above party. The end result was common sense, middle-of-the-road, balanced government by the people and for the people.
We now have a very unbalanced mix, extremely dominated by an ultra-conservative, dogma-driven Republican supermajority who want to tighten their grip. Missourians should be insulted by having to vote again to keep the “Clean Missouri” professionally drawn district plan. Missourians might also want to get a grip on their state government by replacing enough Republicans next November with Democrats to get back the balanced government for the people rather than government for the Republican Party.
Thomas P. Schneider was the mayor of Florissant from 2011 to 2019. Prior to that, he served on the Florissant City Council from 1979 to 2011.