St. Louis Public Radio News
5:31 pm
Fri February 26, 2010

Local groups target earnings tax petitions

St. Louis – A group of St. Louis city officials, employees and community activists is fighting an effort to dump the city's one percent earnings tax.

Retired investment banker Rex Sinquefield is behind the effort. He says the taxes here and in Kansas City are bad for business and job growth. The petitions he's helped sponsor would put the issue to a statewide vote. Opponents are asking people to refuse to sign those petitions.

The tax would not be eliminated immediately. Approval of the statewide measure would block any other cities from approving earnings taxes, and residents of Kansas City and St. Louis would vote every five years to retain the tax. If the tax is rejected, it would be phased out over a decade.

But the earnings tax brings in a third of the city's revenue. And Martin Rafanan with the group Jobs with Justice says the consequences are too dire to risk getting rid of the revenue.

"The fabric of social services in our community is already under strain," he said. "This additional situation might devastate our opportunity to have fabric of social services that truly address the needs of all the people of our community."

Alderman Stephen Conway, who chairs the city's Ways and Means committee, said people outside St. Louis should not decide its tax policy.

"We live here in the city of St. Louis. They're getting signatures across the state of Missouri," he said. "We do not go out to St. Charles County and impose our laws on the people of St. Charles County."

An attorney for Sinquefield calls it unfortunate that opponents do not want voters to decide the taxes they pay