Senator Gina Walsh’s Bipartisan Effort to Support the St. Louis Zoo Heads to Governor for Signature

Walsh - Banner - Press Release - 010813 - II

JEFFERSON CITY — Earlier today, Missouri lawmakers gave final approval to a bipartisan measure sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, which provides a common-sense solution to multiple long-term infrastructure repair and replacement needs at the Saint Louis Zoo. The measure now goes to the governor for signature to become law.

Rather than creating a new sales tax authorization for counties in the St. Louis metropolitan area, Walsh worked with stakeholders at the state and local level to reform a 1980s sales tax law by adding more transparency and taxpayer protections.

“Senate Bill 49 is a great example of how our Legislature is supposed to work, and I commend my colleagues for working across party lines to help the St. Louis Zoo and to clean up Missouri’s tax code,” said Walsh. “I’ve been proud to work on this legislation because it means that our world-class zoo will remain free to the people of St. Louis for generations to come.”

Under current law, any county has the ability to levy a general sales tax up to one-half of 1 percent with voter approval, which can be dedicated for any purpose at the discretion of the respective county. However, only in St. Louis County and only for issues where local governments were partnering with county government, five-eighths of the revenue collected has to be redistributed to local municipalities in the county. Sen. Walsh’s legislation would exempt the county from this distribution requirement and reduce the eligible tax rate in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis from one-half of 1 percent to one-eighth of 1 percent if the tax is being used for zoological activities.

Senate Bill 49 also allows the St. Louis Zoo to implement an admission fee for guests who do not live in St. Louis County or the City of St. Louis for any new facilities, programs or events that are not currently part of the Zoological Museum Sub-District.

Senator Walsh also supported an amendment to cap general sales taxes at the municipal and county level because current law does not limit how many times a city or county places a general sales tax on the ballot. This amendment adds clarity in the state’s tax code to ensure the interpretation of local taxing authority is not left up to the courts.

Here is a summary of Senate Bill 49, which is now on its way to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 49:

  • exempts St. Louis County from requirement under current law to distribute five-eighths of any general sales tax authorized under 67.547 RSMo back to municipalities in St. Louis County;
  • reduces the amount St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis can levy in sales taxes to support the Zoo from one-half of 1 percent to one-eighth of 1 percent under the existing sales tax authorization in 67.547 RSMo; and
  • authorizes the Zoo to charge anyone outside of St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis an admission to any new facilities outside the main Zoo campus.