As We See It

Burdensome Jackson County tax doesn’t address pressing needs

Updated: 2013-10-26T23:24:35Z


Special to The Star

Freedom Inc.’s leadership team vetted the “translational research” tax issue with community leaders and residents throughout Jackson County. Most opposed the proposed half-cent sales tax increase. The most frequent objection was its regressive nature, hitting hardest those who can least afford it.

In addition, the tax would do little to create average-paying jobs — the type of jobs that many struggling and unemployed people need now. A significant amount of the new tax revenue would go for high-salaried researchers, who presumably hold high-paying positions already.

The tax would do nothing to improve basic services, which is a crying need, especially on the East Side of Kansas City. For decades, the East Side has not received equal funding to other parts of the city, for infrastructure and aesthetics. That is a basic inequity that cries out for attention.

Other reasons why Freedom Inc. cannot support the measure include:

1. Translational research is not the responsibility of Jackson County residents. If this is such a worthy endeavor, philanthropic organizations and wealthy foundations should make the investment — not people who can’t afford it.

2. Jackson County should not leap into an area that is foreign to its basic mission and responsibilities, which are to assess, collect and distribute taxes; record deeds; and provide basic services, such as police and fire protection, in unincorporated areas. The county is already challenged to perform those tasks efficiently.

3. Proponents can’t guarantee that the tax will generate any added treatments or cures. The tax transfers the burden, risk and extravagant cost of speculative research from wealthy corporations and foundations to the working poor.

4. Most tax proposals originate within government, but this proposal came from outside. However well intended, the private sector brought the proposal forward just weeks before the deadline for putting a measure on the Nov. 5 ballot. Public discussion of the issue was scant.

5. Many institutions have joined Freedom Inc. in opposing the tax. They include the local NAACP; Citizens Association; local League of Women Voters; Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association; and The Kansas City Star’s editorial board. The mayors of the county’s largest cities, including Sly James of Kansas City, have pointedly withheld support.

Freedom Inc. has supported many sales taxes in the past. But this tax, at this time and for this purpose, is too burdensome on county residents, too speculative and does nothing to address Jackson County’s most pressing needs.

We urge everyone to vote no on Nov. 5.

S. Kiki Curls, of Kansas City, is a state senator, and Gayle Holliday, of Kansas City, is a management consultant. They are on the leadership team of Freedom Inc.

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