Officials: Charter does not allow voter repeal of tax

Conference center opposition group launching petition drive

Jefferson City voters have only one way to repeal an existing tax, according to the city charter. And that is to vote for their elected representatives on the City Council and convince them to place the matter on the ballot.

Last week, the Citizens Against Convention Center Committee filed two notices of intent with the city clerk’s office. The group intends to begin the initiative petition process to offer to the City Council two potential ordinances opposing the conference center.

One of those ordinances would seek to eliminate the 4 percent lodging tax dedicated to conference center funding and stop the city from using any tax or public money for construction of a convention center. The other would stop the city from using any tax or public money for the construction of a convention center, but would leave the 4 percent lodging tax in place.

But the initiative petition and referendum process, which allows voters to take proposed ordinances and issues to the City Council for action or for placement on the ballot, is not allowed to be used for any ordinance “relating to appropriation of money, levy of taxes, or zoning,” according to the city charter.

“The charter does not currently lay out a way to repeal a tax,” said Jeremy Cover, assistant city attorney.

So the only way voters could seek a repeal of an existing tax, he said, would be to elect representatives to the council and convince them to place the issue on a ballot.

The conference center opponents’ notices are being reviewed by City Attorney Drew Hilpert, who has 10 days from when the notices of intent were filed to either approve or disapprove the submissions. The notices were filed Wednesday.

Because the charter does not allow repeal of a tax through initiative petition, it is likely the city will disapprove of at least one of the ordinances. Hilpert has said he is reviewing the notices as well as that particular aspect of the charter.

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