JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A recent decline in Missouri's casino revenues is raising questions among lawmakers about the extent to which the state can continue to rely on gambling to fund key programs.
Attendance at Missouri's 13 casinos is down almost 9 percent from last year.
Missouri relies on two sources of casino revenues. A portion of a per-patron fee is used to pay for the operations of the Missouri Veterans Commission, which oversees seven nursing homes. A state tax on casino revenues helps fund public schools.
The House has approved an additional $22 million for public schools because of the funding shortfall and lawmakers are considering a temporary funding boost to help the veterans' homes.
State officials are citing this winter's cold weather among the causes for the revenue decline.
Nixon said Thursday that the proposed one-half cent sales tax hike would be especially harmful to seniors and veterans on fixed incomes and also could also hurt working-class parents trying to provide for their children.
The bill given initial approval Wednesday night by the Republican-led Senate also includes a three-quarters of a percentage point decrease in the state income tax for individuals and businesses. That income tax cut would more than offset the sales tax hike, resulting in an estimated $450 million loss in state revenues once both tax changes are fully phased in.
The legislation needs another Senate vote before it can move to the House.
Figures released Monday by the state Office of Administration show Missouri's finances have improved mainly because of a decline in tax refunds and an increase in individual income tax collections.
Through February, net general revenues were up 8.7 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. The total includes a 5.5 percent increase in individual income taxes and a 16.5 percent decline in tax refunds. Sales tax collections have remained relatively flat for the fiscal year.
Missouri's 2013 budget year began last July and runs through the end of this June.
Tax collections in February alone were virtually unchanged from February 2012. But for the entire fiscal year, collections were up $394 million.