Eldon residents could see a tax increase of more than 8 percent on prescription drugs if the Missouri Legislature overrides Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of House Bill 253.
"That's a tax increase Missourians can't afford or desire," the governor told a moderate crowd at the Eldon Senior Center Tuesday afternoon.
The bill, which he vetoed in June, would eliminate the current sales tax exemption on prescription drugs and would result in an estimated tax increase of $200 million annually to Missourians, he explained.
The legislature exempted prescription drugs from sales tax in 1979, and to eliminate the exemption would "put a strain" on Missourians.
"It's no use for the legislature to vote a second time to raise taxes on our seniors for drugs for chronic conditions or to treat an illness," he said. "It's not the time to reach into the pockets of our vulnerable seniors."
Language in a section of HB 253 would eliminate the exemption, and because local jurisdictions follow state laws regarding exemptions, the bill would make prescription drugs subject to local taxes as well, according to the governor.
The easiest solution is for the legislature to not override the bill and come back in January and revisit the issue, Governor Nixon said.
"They should give people the benefit of the doubt. The best way to rectify the situation is to not override the bill and sustain my veto," he suggested.
But members of the Missouri General Assembly have expressed their intent to attempt an override at the annual veto session in September, a press release stated.
He said Tuesday there has been some indication by legislative leaders that they may sustain the veto and look at the issue when the General Assembly convenes in January.
"Nobody has disagreed with me that they made a mistake," Governor Nixon said of those who drafted HB 235. "I'd hate to see them make the same mistake twice. This is not the way to do this."
He said the bill was poorly drafted and hopes "cooler minds will prevail."
"The tax increase on prescription drugs in HB 235 would hit older Missourians on fixed incomes especially hard," he said. "The out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs already put a strain on many Missourians' budgets. The bill would make prescription medications even more expensive."
In a September 2011 report, the State Auditor recognized that Missouri has the seventh-lowest state taxes as a percentage of personal income, according to a press release issued by the governor's office. In 2012, the Federation of Tax Administrators ranked Missouri the fifth-lowest in per capita state taxes in the country.
"Over the last five years, we've held the line on taxes and kept Missouri a low-tax state. I intend to keep it that way," Governor Nixon said. "That's why the General Assembly must abandon their quest to raise taxes through House Bill 253.
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Jean Leonatti, CEO of the Central Missouri Area Agencies on Aging, introduced Governor Nixon, applauding him for being a "strong advocate for seniors" in Missouri. "I'm quite concerned about the impact House Bill 253 will have on our seniors," she said.
Also attending the meeting were Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott, Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty and Miller County Commissioner Brian Duncan, among other tri-county dignitaries.