Campaign launched to protect KCMO earnings tax

Posted at 8:09 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 21:09:59-05

Kansas City Mayor Sly James launched a campaign to keep the 1 percent earnings tax when voters head to the polls on April 5.

The earnings tax is nothing new. It's been in place since 1963. The last time Kansas City voted on the tax in 2011, it passed with 78 percent of the vote.

James explained during a rally at Union station how the earnings tax works for people who live or work in the city.

One example he offered was when the Royals won the World Series: 800,000 people flooded downtown Kansas City. That's double the city's population. The mayor said the earnings tax helped pay for the security and cleanup.

"All of those things are here in Kansas City, amenities that the entire region enjoys and the things we want them to enjoy because again, we are one region that needs to work together," said James.

The tax currently funds 40 percent of the general fund, generating about $230 million a year.

However, conservative think tank Show Me Institute said the tax isn't necessary.

Patrick Tuohey of the Show Me Institute said, "Hundreds of cities around the country don't have an earnings tax and they are able to provide services perfectly fine, so what extra services do we get in Kansas City for this extra tax?"

Progress KC argues otherwise.

"Over 4,000 cities in America have an earnings tax. That may be what they want to say, but we are not isolated," explained Progress KC spokesman Steve Glorioso.

City leaders point to outside powers causing the commotion.

"Someone from outside the city subjected two cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, to a statewide vote in order to try and change it, and even then they haven't been able to do it, so now we're doing the same thing all over again on a different level," commented James.

That person is Rex Sinquefield, the person who founded the Show Me Institute. Sinquefield has already pumped $250,000 into the political action committee "Club For Growth" and donated more than $750,000 to Sen. Kurt Schaefer's campaign for attorney general.

Schaefer is the same person who recently sponsored a bill to repeal the earnings tax next year. That's something the city says would be disastrous.

"These experiments are great, except when they're harmful. This would be very harmful," said Glorioso.

The Show Me Institute also said there are opportunities to cut in the budget that doesn't include basic services.

The city said they have cut 700 positions in the past 10 years.


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