After a session of intern-related scandals and continued inaction on issues like highway funding, the Missouri General Assembly hardly seems qualified to micromanage the affairs of the state’s largest city.
But a cabal of lawmakers is threatening to retaliate for a Kansas City ordinance enacting a minimum wage increase by terminating the 1 percent earnings tax used to provide services such as police and fire protection.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, first broached the idea in June, when Kansas City and St. Louis were both discussing gradual minimum wage increases up to $15 an hour.
Last month, the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance gradually increasing the minimum wage to $13 an hour. Members took advantage of a window that opened when Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that forbids cities from setting their own minimum wage. The legislature will consider an override in September.
In a letter to other senators, Schaefer, who often wanders into uninformed, near-hysterical verbiage, wrote that local minimum wage increases would “cause a tremendous amount of damage to our state’s economy.”
The only way to undo the damage and protect local businesses, he wrote, is for the legislature to eliminate the earnings taxes enacted in Kansas City and St. Louis with the authority of local voters.
For starters, there is no conclusive evidence that sensible minimum wage increases harm a region’s economy. Many studies show that regions fare better economically when workers have more money to spend.
Then there’s the question of how Missouri’s economy would be aided by blowing a $200 million hole in Kansas City’s budget, leaving it unable to adequately provide basic services.
While Schaefer’s idea appears to have limited support thus far, his position as chairman of the Senate appropriations committee gives it some weight. The prospective chairman of the House budget committee also says retaliation should be “on the table.”
Schaefer, who is running for the GOP nomination for state attorney general, appears to be doing the bidding of multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield.
Sinquefield’s abhorrence of the earnings tax is the reason Kansas Citians must vote to renew the tax every five years. He achieved that with a ballot initiative in 2010. What better way for the hyper-ambitious Schaefer to curry favor with the state’s most prolific campaign contributor than to stage an attack on the revenue source?
State politicians like Schaefer tend to become so full of themselves they forget they are public servants, not dictators. The well-organized citizens’ coalition that supports a liveable wage should remind them who’s really in charge by moving forward with a statewide ballot initiative to substantially raise the minimum wage throughout Missouri.