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High Stakes For St. Louis, KC in April Election

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ST. LOUIS (AP) –  Rarely have voters in Missouri’s two big cities faced a tougher dilemma.

When they go to the polls next month they can vote to save themselves a nice chunk of money — but doing so
could cripple their local governments.

St. Louis and Kansas City each collect a third or more of their revenue from a 1 percent income tax on both residents and nonresidents who work in the city.

The long-standing earnings taxes were jeopardized in November by passage of a proposition that requires voters in each city to consider whether to retain the tax.

The issue is on the ballot on April 5 in both cities.

If voters renounce the tax, it would be phased out over a decade.

Civic organizations in both cities, backed by local officials, are ramping up public campaigns to warn residents of the
consequences of killing the tax.

If that much revenue were lost, “We just won’t have a city in 10 years,” says Stephen Conway, chairman of the St. Louis
aldermanic Ways and Means Committee.

In Kansas City, Mayor Mark Funkhouser said he would have to ask residents what they would like much less of: “Police, fire, streets, that sort of thing.”

Officials say they are optimistic the taxes will win approval.

But the vote does come at a time of strong anti-spending, anti-government sentiment nationally, epitomized by a tea party movement that has become a factor politically in many places.

The earnings tax generates $140 million annually for St. Louis — roughly one-third of its revenue.

In Kansas City, it generates $200 million — about 40 percent of the total budget.

The median income in both cities is around $30,000, meaning a typical resident would save about $300 if the tax is abolished.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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