Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield on income tax, gubernatorial race | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield on income tax, gubernatorial race

May 18, 2016

St. Louis businessman and financier Rex Sinquefield says he’s disappointed that state lawmakers did not prioritize eliminating Missouri’s state income tax before adjourning the legislative session on Friday.

Sinquefield, who has funded numerous efforts to cut the tax, discussed Missouri’s economy Tuesday in Columbia with members of Show-Me Institute, a conservative think-tank.

“If you have an income tax in your state you are going to be doomed to slow growth,” said Sinquefield. “…The General Assembly should do everything it can to get rid of the earnings taxes in St. Louis or Kansas City before someone brings a federal suit and these taxes are just taken away overnight without a replacement vehicle.”

Missouri's maximum income tax is 6 percent. But St. Louis and Kansas City have a 1 percent earnings tax tacked on to that number. 

Rex Sinquefield

In 2010, Sinquefield bankrolled Proposition A, a measure that requires voters in St. Louis and Kansas City to consider every five years whether to retain the cities' 1 percent earnings tax. The previous St. Louis vote, in 2011, upheld the earnings tax by a vote of 88 percent. This year, with a serious campaign waged against the tax, that number declined by 16 percent.   

Still, St. Louis residents voted overwhelmingly to maintain the city’s earnings tax. Sinquefield donated more than $2 million to an opposition campaign for that vote.

Upcoming Elections 

For Missouri politicians, Rex Sinquefield is a household name. He's known to support conservative candidates running for public office, but he hasn’t quite made up his mind about whom he’ll support in Missouri’s governor’s race.

He’s already donated $1 million to Republican Catharine Hanaway, but if the former speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives doesn’t receive the GOP-nomination, he’s not sure who he will back.

When asked if there was anyone he would not support, Sinquefield said, “That’s a toughy. Yeah, there probably are, but I’m not sure who they are right now.”

Despite being known for supporting Republicans, Sinquefield did donate to Chris Koster, a Democrat, during his 2008 campaign for attorney general. He didn’t say if he’d consider backing Koster for governor in November, but he did praise Koster's stance on business.

“He has said Missouri is not a business-friendly state, and he's absolutely right,” said Sinquefield. “We do a lot to punish business, and that’s why we don’t have a lot of growth here. … This is coming from a Democrat — who has a good business head screwed on.” 

Sinquefield also says he plans to donate to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in his bid to retain his Senate seat. 

Campaign-Finance Limits

As St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum has reported, some lawmakers are frustrated that the General Assembly’s actions toward ethics reform this session didn’t include campaign contribution limits.

After session ended last Friday, Rep Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, said he was disappointed in the legislature’s focus on lobbyist gift bans instead of campaign-finance reform. 

"The only thing you can do with a lobbyist gift is use it at that time,” said Ellington. “So if you go to dinner, that food goes in your stomach. But that campaign check, you can use that for all types of resources.”

If enough signatures have been turned in for a constitutional amendment that would cap campaign contributions, it’s possible the public will have a say in this issue in an election this year.

Sinquefield says he’s opposed to such limits, but he doesn’t plan to spend money to defeat the amendment. 

“All [campaign contributions limits] do is disenfranchise a candidate who has a wonderful good will and good idea but is a newbie to the political process,” Sinquefield said.

Missouri lawmakers voted to repeal limits to campaign contributions in 2008.

Mallory Daily is an intern at the State Capitol Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. Follow Mallory on Twitter: @malreports