Proposed sales tax increase designed to turn Kansas City into healthcare powerhouse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Jackson County residents may soon be seeing a new tax on their shopping bills.  Supporters claim the new tax would boost medical research and create jobs.

If the proposed tax hike is approved, Jackson County residents would pay an additional half-cent for sales tax for the next 20 years. That translates into about $40 million a year, or nearly $800 million over the next two decades.

According to supporters, this tax would bring 500 jobs and a new impressive reputation for Kansas City as a regional medical research heavyweight.

Children's Mercy Hospital played host for Thursday morning's big announcement of the tax proposal. Part of the revenue from the tax would be used to hire nine new researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital, Saint Luke's Health Systems and UMKC, as well as support staff and lab equipment.

Proponents of the tax, like UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton, said the research would hopefully lead to new medicine and new treatments.

"We spend 17.6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product in this country on healthcare.  A lot of those dollars are spent unnecessarily, because unfortunately a lot of people aren't taking advantage of the healthcare that's already available," Morton explained. "That's why this focus on outcomes research is so important."

Jackson County residents will also soon be seeing a million dollar advertising campaign to convince voters to say yes to the tax. Supporters want the issue on the November ballot, and the Jackson County legislature is the next step in the process.

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