Missouri’s Mel Hancock, Friend to Taxpayer, Advocate of Freedom

Published December 1, 2011

Many politicians, especially at election time, say they believe the size and power of government should be limited. Rare is the politician who both says it and means it.
Mel Hancock of Missouri was one of the rare ones. He served as a member of Congress from 1989 to 1997 but is probably better known to Missourians as the author of what has come to be known as the “Hancock Amendment” to the Missouri Constitution. That amendment limits state tax collections and has put money back in the pockets of millions of taxpayers since Missouri voters approved it in 1980.
Hancock died this week in Springfield, Mo., at the age of 82.
The Hancock Amendment limits state tax collections to a percentage of the growth in the personal income of Missouri residents. Tax refunds automatically flow to taxpayers when revenues exceed the cap. The amendment also prohibits the state from imposing unfunded mandates on local governments.
Taxpayer advocates across the country can look to Mel Hancock’s amendment as a model for state tax and expenditure limitations.
Hancock was a Republican in a heavily Republican congressional district and probably could have extended his career in Congress. Instead, in 1996, he announced he would not seek a fifth term. This fulfilled a promise he had made to voters when he first ran to limit his stay to four terms.
He had a healthy skepticism of government, said what he meant, meant what he said, and acted on it. The country needs more Mel Hancocks.