JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Mike Parson is considering calling Missouri lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session next month to deal with a tax issue affecting mostly rural car buyers.
But such a move could come with potential political fallout for the Republican chief executive and the GOP majority that controls the Legislature.
At a time when there is a national focus on gun control, as well as a state focus on tens of thousands of low-income children losing publicly financed health care coverage, Democrats could raise questions about Parson’s priorities as he enters the 2020 campaign season.
“I would not be surprised if someone, or our entire caucus, makes that point,” Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh told the Post-Dispatch on Friday, a day after Parson signaled he’s considering the special session.
“Would we make hay of it? Well, look at all the kids who’ve been moved off the Medicaid rolls. There are a lot of important issues out there,” said Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said special sessions are supposed to be reserved for extraordinary occasions.
“There is nothing extraordinary about this situation that justifies spending taxpayer money for a special session,” Quade said.
The possible special session would be focused on a lawsuit decided by the Missouri Supreme Court on June 25.
In its ruling, the court said a couple could not turn in more than one used car in order to reduce the sales tax bill on the purchase of a new car.
It’s estimated the decision could affect as many as 3,000 car buyers, mostly in rural areas of the state. Parson is a former sheriff in rural Polk County.
“The simple version of it is, is when you trade cars in, for example if you trade two cars in you get credit back on those two cars,” Parson said. “I’m a big believer, you know, that you should be able to get both of those vehicles. You’ve paid taxes on it already.”
It’s not clear why Parson is mulling quick action on the issue, rather than waiting until lawmakers return for their regular session in January.
Doug Smith, executive director of the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, said his lobbying group is aware of the issue.
But, he added, “We are interested in it, but we’re not actively pursuing a solution.”
If Parson were to issue a call for a special session, it likely would run concurrently with the already scheduled one-day veto session on Sept. 11, just two days after he is tentatively scheduled to formally announce his bid for a full, four-year term.
The veto session is not likely to produce much action after Parson vetoed just six bills, including one that would have allowed adults to ride motorcycles without helmets.
Rather than press their colleagues to override Parson’s vetoes, the Republican sponsors of those proposed laws are expected to reintroduce their bills next year to avoid a high-profile intraparty fight at a time when Parson is trying to fend off a challenge for the top spot in state government from state Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat.
Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones said Friday that a final decision on whether to call a special session is expected this week.
“It’s in discussions now, to my understanding,” Jones said. “He really wants to address that.”
Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, had not heard of Parson’s call for a special session. But, he acknowledged Friday there might be other items that take precedence over the car tax.
“I can list a few issues that would seem more important,” Windham said.
Quade said the issue can wait until January to be discussed by lawmakers.
“If the governor wants to address a true emergency, he should demand a thorough investigation into why more than 100,000 children have lost their state health care coverage under his watch. Unlike creating new tax breaks, this is a problem that can’t wait,” Quade said.
Jack Suntrup of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.