by David Martin
Tuesday's vote on the earnings tax in Kansas City, Missouri, resembled a worker's decision to contribute to a 401(k) retirement plan. Voters came to the conclusion that the 1-percent tax on their wages was worth keeping because it's "matched" by people who work in Kansas City but live in surrounding communities.
The e-tax cruised to an easy victory, surviving the challenge to its legitimacy. Wealthy financier and libertarian Rex Sinquefield spent a reported $11 million on a statewide ballot measure that forced Kansas City and St. Louis to put their earnings taxes up for a vote. Kansas City voters approved the tax by a margin of 7 to 2. In St. Louis, the ratio was 9 to 1.
Proposition A, Sinquefield's civics experiment, demands that Kansas City and St. Louis voters consider the e-tax every five years. Politicians in Kansas City say they want state lawmakers to rewrite the language so the next referendum will not take place until 2021 or beyond. In St. Louis, meanwhile, Mayor Francis Slay says he wants to figure out a "better way" to pay for city services.
The e-tax's opposition group in Kansas City, Freedom PAC, raised $600,000 from undisclosed donors. On Tuesday night, campaign spokesman Woody Cozad tried to spin the results. His statement read, in part:
Tonight, a small minority of Kansas Citians choose to continue with an earnings tax that is driving small businesses out and pushing homeowners away. For the first time in 40 years Kansas Citians had a discussion about whether or not the earnings tax makes sense. Thousands of Kansas Citians have decided it does not.Of course, the "small minority" outnumbered the "thousands" by a substantial margin. The unofficial count indicated that 56,965 voted to keep the tax in place, while 16,494 said they wanted it to go away.