St. Louis Public Radio News
4:23 pm
Tue April 27, 2010

Earnings tax vote likely on November ballot

St. Louis Public Radio – Supporters of a ballot issue that could repeal the earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City say they have submitted 210,000 signatures - more than double what the law requires - to put the measure on the November ballot.

"Let Voters Decide" gathered signatures in seven of the state's nine Congressional districts, leaving out the 52 counties in a line stretching from Lee's Summit to the Bootheel. If the signatures are valid and the measure is approved, voters in St. Louis and Kansas City would decide in 2011 whether to keep their earnings taxes. Other Missouri cities would be barred from ever implementing such a tax.

"The earnings tax was originally passed by the Legislature," spokesman Marc Ellinger said. "Voters outside of St. Louis and Kansas City have never had an opportunity to vote with respect to earnings taxes, and voters inside St. Louis and Kansas City have not had an opportunity to vote on earnings taxes in many, many years."

The measure is underwritten financially by St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield, leading opponents to call the measure a tax cut for a billionaire that would force drastic reductions to city services. In St. Louis, the one percent tax on the income of city residents and employees of companies in the city, brings in nearly a third of the city's annual budget.

Other opponents said the measure strips municipalities of local control.

"We believe that at any given time, as many options and tools should always be on the table and available for local elected representatives," said Rhonda Perry, the director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. "We really see this as a major issue in terms of taking away local control and in a way even local democracy. We have one billionaire who can afford to push his will onto the rest of the state."

Perry said she did not know of any rural counties or cities considering an earnings tax.

The deadline to submit signatures for initiative petitions is Sunday at 5 p.m. The Secretary of State will then send the petitions to local election authorities in the districts where supporters gathered signatures. Officials have until August 3rd to determine if there are enough valid signatures to put the measure to a vote in November.