Lawyer Awaits Ruling in Suit Challenging St. Louis Payroll Tax

Kevin Killeen @KMOXKilleen

CLAYTON, Mo (KMOX) – The lawyer who killed red light cameras in the city of St. Louis is hoping he can do the same thing for the city’s payroll tax.

Attorney Bevis Schock says the half-percent tax paid by employers is bad for business and violates the state constitution.

“Higher taxes mean people do less business or they take the business to places with lower taxes,” Schock said, “I read the (Missouri) constitution to require that taxes can only be passed by local governments, if the kind of tax has been authorized by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. I don’t think that’s been done with this payroll tax.”

Enacted in 1988, the city’s payroll tax has become an important part of the city’s budget. Last year it raised $38 million of the city’s $510 million budget. img 7675 Lawyer Awaits Ruling in Suit Challenging St. Louis Payroll Tax

“There’s no question that if my case is successful,” Schock said, “the city is going to get hit hard. They claim they need all the money they’re getting,” Schock said, “I disagree with that. I think they could fire half the patronage employees who are no-show workers and we’d probably be fine.”

Alderwoman Megan Green introduced a bill last week that would consider raising the payroll tax to a full one percent. She says the extra $38 million it would raise could be used to boost police salaries and pay for job training and other programs aimed at crime prevention.

The payroll tax case was argued before the Missouri Court of Appeals in June, and there’s no timetable on when the panel could issue a ruling. Schock says it’s possible the case could go all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

But Schock has done battle with the city there before, and won. Earlier he challenged the constitutionality of the city’s red light cameras. The program was taking in more than $10 million a year in fines from motorists. But the Missouri Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional in 2015.

“I usually have in my practice one major public interest case trying to fight for the rights of the people against the rapacious government trying to take their money so they can pay off their friends.”

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