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Missouri legislation aims to allow counties to implement cell ph - KOAM TV 7

Missouri legislation aims to allow counties to implement cell phone tax to fund 911 services

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Legislation recently passed by the Missouri House of Representatives aims to allow counties to utilize a cell phone tax to help fund 911 services.

For many years, counties across the state have funded 911 services through a landline surcharge, but with a dwindling number of landline users, that source of revenue is drying up.

"Sometimes I will get calls from people asking if they can bring their landline phone numbers over to our cell phone company to just use as cell phones," said Ryan Miller, employee at Boost Mobile in Joplin.

The bill, now at the Senate, allows counties to put the cell phone tax issue on a ballot for residents to vote on.

If passed, a maximum of a $1.50 surcharge could be collected per month.

State officials estimate in counties that do pass the charge, it will average around 60 cents per month.

The revenue collected is also expected to cover the cost of new technology, such as 911 texting services.

"In the event of an emergency where the cell phone towers may be down or have problems, the ability to text is usually still there," said state representative Charlie Davis, District 128. "This allows some of that technology to be funded to make sure we have protections for the citizens of our state."

Employees at local cell phone companies say customers generally do not like to see additional charges.

"Customers don't like paying taxes now, so they definitely wouldn't like paying even more taxes," Miller said.

Supporters argue the added expense is worth it.

"I am a no new tax, a very low tax type of individual, but there are times that a small fee to benefit public safety is crucial, and that's what this does," Davis said. "This benefits public safety. Every person in our county, in our state, in our cities will benefit from this because it ensures that we have a system of quick response for emergency situations."

The legislation is currently in fiscal review at the Senate, and is expected to reach the floor for debate as early as tomorrow afternoon.
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