Yael T. Abouhalkah

October 16, 2013

Sly James, other mayors will not endorse Jackson County medical research tax

Chalk up yet another defeat for the campaign to pass an $800 million medical research tax. The mayors of Jackson County’s five largest cities are not going to endorse the half-cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Chalk up yet another defeat for the campaign to pass an $800 million medical research sales tax on Nov. 5 in Jackson County.

Led by Kansas City Mayor Sly James, the mayors of the county’s five largest cities are


going to endorse the half-cent sales tax increase, which would raise $40 million a year.

This follows on the heels of opposition to the tax from major political groups such as

Freedom Inc. and the Citizens Association, as well as The Star’s Editorial Board


UPDATED 2 PM: Now the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has announced it will also oppose

the tax.

The official comment from James’ office is short and to the point: “Mayor James is supportive of the broad concept of translational medicine but at this time is not taking a position on this particular ballot question.”

Lee’s Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads, Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross and Raytown Mayor David Bower said in interviews they are all neutral on Question One. They won’t support the tax and they won’t oppose it either.

Independence Mayor Don Reimal did not respond to interview requests, but I’m told he has the same position.

This opposition will not help supporters pass the tax increase in those cities. That’s a good thing to hear for tax opponents, like myself.

Certainly it would be better for the “Yes on One” people to have the leading politicians in each city out drumming for the cause.

But keep in mind that all of these mayors have cities to run — cities that depend on getting millions of dollars from local sales and property taxes, especially, to provide services to their residents.

In fact, as Mayor Ross of Blue Springs has noted, he is spending all his time trying to persuade his city’s voters to endorse a half-cent sales tax increase that would be used to improve parks and build a community center. That tax also is on the Nov. 5 ballot.

So at least in Blue Springs, voters have the opportunity to approve up to a full, 1-cent hike in their sales tax rate to 8.975 percent. They also could reject one or both of the requested half-cent taxes.

It’s not exactly surprising that the mayors won’t come out and embrace a tax that’s going to be used for speculative research by two private organizations (St. Luke’s and Children’s Mercy hospitals) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Here’s their thinking: If the county tax passes, that could make it tougher to get voters to approve city taxes some time in the future.

However, none of the mayors has good reasons to come out publicly to directly oppose the tax either. Look at who’s leading the charge for it: The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, made up of business elite who fund all kinds of political and tax campaigns in Kansas City and other cities in the county.

So the mayors are “neutral,” which in this case is essentially not good news for tax supporters.

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