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Lake of the Ozarks

A boat speeds by new condos at Lake of the Ozarks in this file photo.

JEFFERSON CITY — It’s not only car purchases that are pressing Missouri lawmakers to keep the status quo when it comes to a special tax break.

Boat dealers descended Tuesday on the Capitol as part of a lobbying effort to convince the House and Senate that a decision by the state’s highest court needs to be reversed.

“It definitely affects us,” said Mike Kenagy, executive director of the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association, which represents boat dealerships in the central Missouri recreation spot.

“It means a lot to us on our end,” added Jeremy Anderson, general manager of Big Thunder Marine of Lake Ozark, who said his company sold 350 new and used boats last year.

Gov. Mike Parson called this week’s special session in response to a June ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court that barred people from using the combined trade-in value of multiple vehicles to reduce sales tax they owed on the purchase of a new vehicle.

Democrats say the issue could have been addressed during the regular session that begins in January. Republicans have defended his decision to bring the Legislature back into session.

Boat dealers said limiting the trade-in to just one titled vehicle doesn’t make sense because boat trailers, boat motors and the watercraft itself are all titled separately.

“You could have three or four different titles on what you’d consider one trade-in,” Kenagy said.

The loss of the tax break for everything from personal watercraft like Jet Skis to yachts, he said, could play a significant role in a person’s decision to purchase a boat.

Attempts to reach a representative of Springfield-based Bass Pro Shops, which also could be affected by a decrease in watercraft sales, were not successful.

Although Parson has described his decision to bring lawmakers back for a special session this week as a way to protect “the average person out there,” keeping the tax break will help not only boat dealers, but companies like rental car giant Enterprise Holdings, which is based in Clayton.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a subsidiary of Enterprise Holdings, rarely uses the credit when managing its massive fleet of vehicles, the company said.

But Enterprise Fleet Management, also a subsidiary of Enterprise Holdings, “has used these credits for years on behalf of its customers,” company spokeswoman Christine Cavallini earlier told the Post-Dispatch.

As for boats, the Missouri Department of Revenue reports that there are 775,000 boats and 690,400 boat motors registered in the state as of Sept. 1.

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In St. Louis County, the state says there are 63,000 boats. St. Charles County is listed as having 36,000 watercraft.

If lawmakers do not approve the tax credit, approximately 14,000 transactions per year would result in higher sales tax bills, according to the Department of Revenue.

The department did not quantify how much more these people and businesses would owe.

State analysts said Missouri could see $3 million more in tax collections per year if lawmakers don’t act, but budget officials, citing their lack of comprehensive information from the revenue department, said the actual effect of the legislation is unknown.

Legislation that would keep the tax break intact advanced in a House committee Tuesday on a 6-4 vote. All Democrats on the panel and Rep. Shane Roden, R-Cedar Hill, voted no.

The measure now goes to the House floor for a vote.

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