Pulling the Taxpayer's Sword from the Stone: The Appropriation Requirement of Missouri's Hancock Amendment

By Bremer, Jonathan G. | Missouri Law Review, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Pulling the Taxpayer's Sword from the Stone: The Appropriation Requirement of Missouri's Hancock Amendment

Bremer, Jonathan G., Missouri Law Review

I. Introduction

On November 4, 1980, Missouri voters approved the Hancock Amendment (Hancock) to Missouri's Constitution. (1) Hancock addressed voter concerns as to whether state and local governments could keep their taxing and spending in check. (2) The amendment contains two principle aspects. First, Hancock limits state and local governments in their ability to increase taxation, revenue, and spending without voter approval. (3) Second, Hancock prohibits the state from imposing "unfunded mandates" upon its political subdivisions--closing a loophole that would otherwise allow the state to circumvent its duty not to raise taxes or spending above a certain level without a vote of the people. (4) According to Hancock, new state mandates require that a "state appropriation is made and disbursed to pay the county or other political subdivision for any increased costs." (5) This "appropriation requirement" is the focus of this Law Summary.

As one of, if not the most, fiscally conservative states in the nation, the history and future of Missouri's Hancock Amendment--arguably the most restrictive tax and expenditure limitation in the nation--is critical to understand, not only for Missourians, but for many other Americans, as our state and national elected representatives consider how, if at all, to approach spiraling deficits in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Part II of this Summary will briefly trace the history of self-imposed fiscal restraints among the various states. Missouri's unique tradition of fiscal conservatism and the birth of Hancock will be part of the historical discussion, which also includes a description of the Hancock's key provisions and how the courts have interpreted Hancock's provisions over time. Part III will focus on the 2004 case of Brooks v. State that appears to open the door for avoidance of the seemingly unambiguous Hancock appropriation requirement. This Part will also describe the pending case of Turner v. School District of Clayton, which may bring this question of interpretation before the Supreme Court of Missouri. Part IV provides two examples of recently proposed and enacted legislation that could violate the Hancock appropriation requirement in an effort to show the potential broad reach of the provision. It also suggests that the Supreme Court of Missouri has become increasingly deferential to the legislature in Hancock cases. Lastly, it applies the interpretive methods used by the court in Hancock cases to the appropriations requirement and concludes that regardless of method, the court is likely to uphold the provision's broad reach. This section ends with a policy-based argument supporting such a holding.

II. Legal Background

A. A Brief History of Self-Imposed Fiscal Discipline Among the States

unlike the federal government, states have developed tools promoting fiscal responsibility. (6) Most state constitutions, for example, place limits on spending (7) and borrowing. (8) Almost all states have balanced budget requirements, (9) and most have some restrictions on taxation. (10) These tools were often developed in response to serious economic crises. (11) While generally effective following such crises, state and local governments characteristically find ways to evade self-imposed limitations in the long run through either subsequent legislative action or judicial interpretations. (12) As one scholar points out, an important lesson to be learned from state fiscal devices is the "enormous gap" between the language of such provisions and actual practice of state and local governments today. (13) The history of two state fiscal controls public purpose requirements and state debt limitations--highlights this phenomenon. (14)

During the 1820s and 1830s, public support for private enterprises was widespread. (15) After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, New York's economy boomed. (16) other states supported their own large-scale infrastructure projects in order to remain competitive.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Pulling the Taxpayer's Sword from the Stone: The Appropriation Requirement of Missouri's Hancock Amendment


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?