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Missouri Senate exempts firearms, ammo, diapers and feminine hygiene products from sales tax

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, during the first day of the legislative session in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, during the first day of the legislative session in Jefferson City.

The bills now move to the House. Meanwhile, legalizing sports betting is stalled in the Senate.

The Missouri Senate on Thursday passed bills to exempt firearms and ammunition from sales tax, as well as diapers and feminine hygiene products.

Senators approved the bill containing the exemption for diapers, which was sponsored by Doug Beck, D-Affton, on a bipartisan basis — 28-6. The bill also includes a tax credit for expenses related to the establishment of a full-time grocery store located in a food desert.

On the bill dropping local and state sales taxes on the purchase of firearms and ammunition, senators voted 19-15, with only Republicans voting in favor. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, was the sponsor.

Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill. Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, said he did not understand the concept of carving out sales tax for ammunition and firearms compared to other purchases.

“I mean a guy goes to the store, he buys a gallon of milk and a box of cereal for his kids. And next to him is a guy buying a box of ammunition. Why is the guy buying food for his kids paying taxes and the guy buying bullets is not?” Cierpiot said.

An earlier version of the bill had an amendment that exempted food from sales tax, though it was eventually removed due to the projected cost. A fiscal note estimated the elimination of sales tax on groceries would cost $200 million in state funds and $1.3 billion in local funds beginning in fiscal 2025.

Brattin told Cierpiot he agreed with the food tax exemption, which is why he allowed it to be added in the first place. He also said he's willing to work on that issue separately.

“Your capability to feed your family should not be taxed, especially at excessive rates with inflation being out of control and the cost of everything going up,” Brattin said.

Speaking after the vote, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, reiterated that the cost of the grocery exemption was high.

“I'd like to do them all. I think they all make sense. But we know we can't, so we got to be responsible about it and be adults about what we think is possible,” Rowden said.

Senate Minority John Rizzo, D-Independence, said the Democrat-sponsored bill compared to the Republican one shows the differences in priorities.

“We're fighting for working families, they're fighting to make sure that you can buy unlimited rounds with no sales tax,” Rizzo said.

Senate stalls on sports betting

Legislation legalizing sports betting in the state remains in limbo.

Senators spent more than eight hours Wednesday debating legislation that would authorize sports wagering both in person at casinos and through mobile apps.

Again, the disagreements stemmed from not including language that would legalize video gaming machines, also called VLTs. Those machines already exist in places like truck stops but are unregulated.

The bill the Senate debated strictly addresses sports gambling, and an attempt to add an amendment that would legalize video gaming machines failed, though it did garner some bipartisan support.

Rowden said the odds of sports betting passing this year are not good. He also said he expects the Senate Appropriations Committee to hear the House version of the bill before getting too deep into budget work.

“My assumption is based on previous actions in that committee that VLTs won't be a part of it when it comes out. So, I'd say the House bill gets to the Senate floor. What happens there? I have no idea,” Rowden said.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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