Robbing the Poor so the Rich Can Play.

In Missouri, yacht owners continue to enjoy a sales tax exemption that costs the state $6 million. The report, from The Kansas City Star, comes my way via Balloon Juice and also tells us that the state Revenue Department refuses to tally the cost of exemptions like these because it would be too burdensome on taxpayers. Meanwhile, the state Legislature has recommended cuts to schools and shelters for battered women.

Some of the boats sit unused in the Lake of the Ozarks, and a man named Mike Atkinson from the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association tries to make the case that taxing the boats would depress boat sales, and therefore cost jobs, but that seems a weak case given that smaller boats are taxed. (Buyers of boats that qualify pay a small fee in lieu of the tax.) The silliness of that argument really becomes apparent in the article, though. Kudos to reporter Mike McGraw for getting let-them-eat-cake quotes from the lobbyists who own many of the boats and fight to keep the exemption:

Lobbyist Bill Gamble said he rarely uses his 29-footer — “Special Interest” — moored at the Lake of the Ozarks. He thinks he remembers taking advantage of the sales tax exemption, but said he hasn’t been on the boat for two years.

“I even forgot I owned it until you called,” said Gamble, who added that he “didn’t buy a larger boat just to get around the sales tax.” . . .

. . . Lobbyist John Bardgett said he hoped he got the exemption when he bought his 28-footer, “The Noodle,” but he couldn’t recall. “I’ll have to ask the people who bought it for me,” Bardgett said.

McGraw points out that the last two year's worth of untapped sales tax from yacht purchases could have paid for a child-care subsidy for low-income workers that's now on the chopping block. Stay classy, Missouri.

-- Monica Potts

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