Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Kansas City Earnings Tax: One Part

The Kansas City, Missouri tax on earned income has been in force since 1963. (For a great look at how it started check out this post from Kansas City with the Russian Accent.) Starting first at 0.5% and then being raised to 1%, the tax is assessed to all who live in KCMO regardless of where they work and all who work in KCMO. Due to the statewide affirmation of Proposition A, a citizen (well, one citizen, Rex Sinquefield) proposition placed on last November's ballot, Kansas City and St. Louis are having to vote on whether or not to continue their Earnings tax (or E-tax as it is commonly called) this April 5th. Needless to say with the tax collected in KCMO coming to around $200 million, there has been considerable debate over the E-tax's fate.

I could see my way to voting willingly for the E-tax to go away if I could trust City Hall to cut the right stuff. As an emailer to KMBZ's Shanin and Parks program pointed out, KCMO spends way more per resident than many comparable cities. Clearly, and I think everyone knows this, there is fat at City Hall. In addition, the city has allowed itself the luxury of poor discretionary spending choices (read TIFs). However, I do not trust the city to cut the right stuff. They will cut police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel, street and parks department workers who work on the front lines instead of the redundant layers of administration in each department has (and you know those redundant layers are there!). Those are the friends of the pols, the ones promised jobs and influence at one point or another. Not just those people but the $90 K glorified secretaries that run around City Hall every day. Those folks need to find real jobs for that money, not just retrieving coffee and making copies for the politicians.

Yes, there are a lot of grifters and hangers-on at 12th and Oak. Can we count on them getting the ax, as well as axing the breaks and payments to developers (those not legally required by a contract anyway), rather than the men and women of the city who work "in the trenches" daily? I am not sure, and I am afraid that if services are cut, living conditions in the city will decay in a way that the patterns of residency are affected once again. This time, it will be the flight of working people, who do not want to live in a city that doesn't "work."

The other part on the KCMO Earnings tax will be that E-mail that came to Shanin and Parks, courtesy of their FB page....


Bob G. said...

A couple observations hrere...
That "EI" tax in KCMO sounds a LOT like the "city wage tax" we had back in Philly...and it ran about 3x the amount for the STATE tax!
DIdn't matter WHERE you worked (or lived), and many thought it was UNFAIR.

Next, it might NOT be that your city spends SO MUCH per citizen...when you stop to consider WHICH citizens are sucking up MOST of that money (that would be thorugh entitlements).

Excellent post.

Stay safe out there.

The Observer said...

Bob G:

I really don't know how this is going to go. People from surrounding communities who end up surrendering 1% of their income if they work in KCMO are hoping it will be repealed.

Others are praying it will be kept--they keep invoking DETROIT...

It is true that the poorer/more-use of-entitlement neighborhoods seem to use more services--more ambulance calls, more fires, need more police etc than the better neighborhoods.

It will be an interesting election for sure.

Thanks for dropping by!

The Observer

chuck said...

More bread for the Roman mob.

No E tax, no Pax Romana.

bill kostar said...

Really good post.
It's too bad that apparently the only choice for KCMO residents is that the city currently wastes large amounts of e-tax money on inappropriate priorities and projects, OR the city government will cut inapporpirately if the tax is gradually repealed.
Such a choice pretty well summarizes KCMO government for most of its residents.
It has nothing to do with the people who actually live here.

Anonymous said...