The Buzz

The facts, faces and hum of local politics with Steve Kraske and Dave Helling

Don’t invoke border war in fight over medical research tax

09/23/2013 3:52 PM

09/25/2013 10:03 AM

Six weeks from today, Jackson County voters will decide if they want to raise sales taxes by a half-cent to pay for research into cures for various diseases.

So far, it’s been pretty hard to find ordinary citizens who support the tax, but that could change. Jackson Countians usually keep an open mind about such things, and they may yet be persuadable. We’ll see.

The only message voters are seeing now, though, comes from a tax opponent,

Citizens for Responsible Research

. In a TV commercial and on a website, the group makes several arguments against the levy, including this shocker: Somehow, some of the tax money would end up in Kansas.

Children’s Mercy and St. Luke’s hospitals

, it turns out, have operations in Kansas. The group claims the hospitals will get the sales-tax money, then shift other revenue to the Kansas branches — an unfair “indirect” subsidy, it says.

Don’t be confused. There is no evidence the hospitals want to use the money to prop up their satellite facilities. It would go for audited, Missouri-based research.

More importantly, Kansans would

pay

part of the new sales tax every time they buy something in Missouri. By some estimates, 20 percent of local sales tax revenue comes from Kansans.

Missourians, of course, pay Kansas sales taxes, too, which illustrates a crucial point that the commercial and local politicians often miss: In our community, public and private money flows across city, county and state lines all the time.

You know about taxes — the earnings tax, sales taxes, restaurant taxes, car-rental taxes, airline taxes, even the gasoline tax are paid by residents of both states. But it’s true for other endeavors, as well.

Some Kansans get in-state tuition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Missourians in certain programs get reduced rates at Kansas schools.

Missourians can get treatment at the taxpayer-subsidized University of Kansas Medical Center, while Kansans can be seen at Truman Medical Center, which gets taxpayer support.

Learning, illness, travel — who pays for what gets pretty muddy pretty quickly.

There is an argument that taxpayer subsidies for local amenities are out of balance. Some of us living in Kansas have said for years that we should bear a bigger share of the funding responsibility for the stadiums, the arts, museums and the zoo.

But the case is harder to make when a committee —

headed by a guy from Springfield

, by the way — suggests Kansas is getting some nefarious subsidy from the health research tax.

There are reasons to vote against the research tax and reasons for vote for it. Kansas isn’t a reason either way.

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