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Missouri House of Representatives

Friday May 14, 2010 - St. Louis - The Missouri House of Representatives holds session on the last day of the annual legislative session in Jefferson City. Christian Gooden

JEFFERSON CITY — With Democrats calling the maneuver a giveaway for big businesses, the Republican-controlled House signed off on legislation Wednesday to restore a sales-tax break for multivehicle trade-ins.

Acting in a special session called by Gov. Mike Parson, the House sent the changes to the Senate on a 126-21 vote.

The full Senate is likely to act on the measure Friday.

Parson, a Republican, called lawmakers back to the Capitol after the Missouri Supreme Court in June ended the sales-tax break for multiple car trade-ins.

Previously, Missouri Department of Revenue officials allowed people to subtract the value of multiple trade-in vehicles against the cost of a replacement vehicle, then calculate the sales tax from the discounted price. The court ruled state law only allows taxpayers to count the value of one vehicle, trailer or boat as a credit against the sales tax on the replacement vehicle.

The sponsor of Parson’s initiative, Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, said the proposal will help “normal, everyday citizens” and ensure the state doesn’t get entangled in litigation over uncertainty in the statutes.

“It affects a multitude of people,” Ruth said. “It’s a good, pro-consumer bill.”

Democrats said the law should be limited to small businesses and individuals so large corporations can’t skirt paying sales taxes by trading in large fleets of vehicles.

“I believe this bill, to a certain extent, is corporate welfare,” said Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury.

Clayton-based Enterprise Holdings is among the companies that could benefit from the change in law. Also supporting it were boat dealers, who said buyers should be able to combine the trade-in value of boats, motors and trailers since they are considered one unit.

“I wouldn’t call a boat dealer a corporation,” Ruth said.

Democrats also have complained that the governor’s call for a special session comes at a time when there are more pressing issues facing the state, including gun violence in St. Louis and a drop in the number of people receiving Medicaid.

However, members of both the House and Senate would have been in the Capitol already this week for the Legislature’s annual September veto session and a series of campaign fundraisers held by more than 80 lawmakers and candidates.

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