Missouri tax ballot initiative would gut services Missouri voters have a tough elections season ahead of them. Not only are right-wing Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Robin Carnahan neck-to-neck in the U.S. Senate race, but democratic congressman RussCarnahan is also facing a tea-party challenger Ed Martin, who served as right-wing Missouri Governor Matt Blunt’s chief of staff. Martin was later forced out of his position for intentionally deleting political emails relating to Governor Blunt; the scandal ultimately cost Missouri tax payers over $2 million.

In addition to these races, Missouri voters also face a billionaire-funded November ballot initiative that would eliminate the earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City. The earnings tax accounts for over one-third of both cities budgets; firefighters and police officers salaries are paid by the earnings tax, as are public recreational centers and park services, among other public services like snow removal, trash pick-up and after school programs.

According to a broad coalition of unions and community groups, United for Missouri’s Priorities, the initiative, Proposition A, would “gut city services” by eliminating 33 percent of St. Louis’ general fund – roughly $145 million – at a time when the city is already trying to make up a $45 million budget shortfall. The initiative would also eliminate 42 percent of Kansas City’s general fund – roughly $200 million – which is more than the entire budget for the Kansas City Police Department.

St. Louis is already discussing reductions in garbage collection,public safety services and street lighting.

Additionally, according to a fiscal note sent by the City of St. Louis in response to ballot initiative petitions being filed, eliminating the earnings tax without a replacement tax “would result in cuts to public safety services so deep as to end the city’s viability as a place to live, work and visit.”If Proposition A passes in November higher taxes would likely be imposed on low income and middle-class families through increased property and sales taxes.

In fact, according to the Missouri Budget Project, without the earnings tax St. Louis would have to triple its current sales tax from 1.375 percent to 5.3 percent, and sitdown restaurants would have to increase their tax to 14.66 percent.

According to the Kansas City Star, “Repeal of the earnings tax…would presumably shift the [tax] burden to the poor…”

Furthermore, Proposition A would prevent residents from Missouri’s two largest cities from deciding their own future; if residents of St.Louis and Kansas City decided that they wanted to end the massive cuts to their city’s budgets, this initiative actually prohibits them from doing so, as this is a state-wide ballot initiative.

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, people in Olivette, Joplin, St. Charles and “and every other hamlet in the state” would vote on what happens in Missouri’s two largest cities.

“It’s one thing to have taxation without representation,” the Journal continued, “This is the exact opposite. These people don’t pay the earnings tax, nor do they benefit from it,” yet they would ultimatelydecide if St. Louis and Kansas City have an earnings tax.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and aldermanic president Lewis Reed have both received significant contributions from Rex Sinquefield, the billionaire funding the initiative. Both have refused to come-out publicly against the initiative. However, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon opposes Proposition A.

According to Aaron Burnett, from St. Louis Jobs with Justice, “Without the earnings tax our city’s infrastructure would crumble. We would see massive cuts to our public services, causing huge delays in response times for our police and firefighter services. And we would see increased taxes on working-class families. We have to stop thisinitiative in November.”





Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the president of the St. Louis Workers' Education Society (WES), a 501c3 non-profit organization chartered by the St. Louis Central Labor Council as a Workers Center. His articles have been published in the St. Louis Labor Tribune, Alternet, Shelterforce, Political Affairs, and Z-Magazine, among other publications. He is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA," and is available to speak at your community center, union hall or campus.