JEFFERSON CITY — Voters in Missouri's capital city are considering a sales tax increase to pay for $41 million worth of community development projects, such as building a new conference center, redeveloping the old Missouri State Penitentiary site and revitalizing the city's downtown.
The Jefferson City News Tribune reported the proposal calls for increasing the city sales tax by a half-cent for a decade and then using the additional revenue pay for 30 projects. The measure will appear on Tuesday's ballot.
Supporters call the proposal "Transform Jefferson City" and contend that it could help revitalize Missouri's capital city while offering residents more conveniences.
"We can improve our quality of place by taking advantage of the unique projects we will leverage," said Gus Wagner, campaign manager for the tax measure. "The sales tax will end in 10 years, but the Transformation initiative will help improve our community for its residents for generations."
Opponents contend a higher sales tax would be particularly challenging for middle- and lower-income residents. Ed Williams, the leader for the opposition group Citizens for Fair Tax, said higher sales taxes could prompt more people to do their shopping online or go to stores outside Jefferson City.
"Virtually everything would increase in cost, including water, telephone, natural gas, food, automobiles, building materials and many things we do not even consider," Williams said.
Under the proposal, about $17.4 million would be directed for a new conference center and redevelopment of the site of a former state prison that is located a few blocks from the state Capitol building on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The funds would go toward a new road, repairing several of the prison's former housing units and moving its gas execution chamber closer to the remaining prison buildings.
Tour groups currently pass through the Missouri State Penitentiary, which closed in 2004.
Another roughly $14.5 million chunk would be used for projects in downtown Jefferson City. Officials plan to build a parking garage, put in underground utilities and add sidewalks, lighting and benches. The money could also be used to develop an entertainment district. A separate set of projects would use nearly $8 million to help Lincoln University use the building of a hospital that is moving to a new location by 2015.
About $1.1 million would be spent to increase access to the Missouri River by redeveloping a former bus station, placing new signs and cleaning up land surrounding a creek that flows into the river. Jefferson Citywould also create a new not-for-profit entity to help startup companies.