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KC leaders say St. Louis isn't pulling its weight in Prop A fight

Sunday, October 3, 2010 | 7:47 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — Business and civic leaders in Kansas City who oppose a November ballot measure that would limit municipal earnings taxes say their counterparts in St. Louis have not been doing enough to fight the proposed measure.

Proposition A on Missouri's Nov. 2 ballot would require voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to approve the two cities' existing earnings taxes every five years. It would also bar other Missouri cities from imposing their own earnings tax.

Fundraising reports show the primary committee against Prop A — United for Missouri's Priorities — has raised about $450,000 this year, with Kansas City interests coming up with most of that. St. Louis interests have given less than $32,000, and St. Louis's political leaders have mostly stayed out of the debate, according to The Kansas City Star.

St. Louis and Kansas City are the only two cities in the state that have an earnings tax, which is a 1 percent levy on the earnings of people who live or work inside the city.

Let Voters Decide, the committee supporting Proposition A, says on its website that the measure is needed because "a third layer of income taxes imposed at the local level hurts working people and employers."

The group also says on its website that the "earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City hurts the local economy by giving people and businesses a reason to locate in nearby suburban areas that don't have an earnings tax."

Kansas City officials, including Mayor Mark Funkhouser have promised a full campaign to oppose Proposition A and support the earnings tax. Kansas City officials say the earnings tax provides more than $200 million annually in city revenue, and City Council members don't know how that would be replaced.

"We should leave no stone unturned," Funkhouser said. Kansas City's business leaders have also been fighting the proposition, but complain that St. Louis leaders haven't been as involved.

Pat Dujakovich, a leader of the Kansas City effort against Prop A, also complained about her counterparts in St. Louis, calling them "worthless."

"Their total failure to fight this on every level is a mistake," Dujakovich said.

But St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who supports the earnings tax, has said an expensive statewide fight against Prop A makes little sense because its approval is a foregone conclusion.

Proposition A would not repeal the earnings tax in Kansas City or St. Louis. If it's passed, the two cities would have to hold a referendum on the tax next year, and every five years after that, or lose it. If repealed, the tax would phase out over 10 years.

"The real issue for St. Louis and Kansas City is in April," Slay said. "That is where I believe our focus ought to be."


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