Just for fun, let’s take a peek at the total sales tax rate on a Country Club Plaza restaurant bill if two proposed tax increases go into effect and ... holy cow!
Oh, that’s not funny at all.
The rate would jump to 12.6 percent, up from the current 10.85 percent, if voters endorse a one-cent sales tax hike for streetcars and a three-fourths-cent jump for statewide transportation plans.
Yes, those are big “ifs.” Kansas Citians would decide the streetcar issue if it gets on a ballot later this year. Missourians would get to approve or reject the statewide tax if the General Assembly agrees to hold a November election.
So this is a good time for a basic question: Is there a limit to how high sales tax rates will go in the Kansas City area? We simply don’t know yet.
Generally, sales taxes are higher in Kansas than in Missouri.
That’s partly because Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature kept in place a large part of a state sales tax that was supposed to expire in 2013. Lawmakers needed millions of extra dollars to balance the budget so they could fund schools and other crucial public services. The Legislature had approved irresponsible income tax cuts that, as predicted, are draining needed funds.
Those tax reductions favor the more well-off. The regressive sales tax is more of a burden on lower-income residents.
Missouri lawmakers are headed toward making the same bad choice.
This week the GOP-controlled Senate and House essentially approved a tax-cut bill that could send more financial rewards to higher-income residents and selected businesses. The lawmakers thus overrode the sensible veto of Gov. Jay Nixon.
Supporters said they were “keeping more money in taxpayers’ pockets.” Meanwhile, these same lawmakers are considering a plan to take hundreds of millions a yearaway
from taxpayers with the transportation tax.
Here’s a summation of sales tax rates, keeping in mind most were in the 6.5 percent range 15 or so years ago.
Belton 8.725 percent; Kansas City (in Platte County) 8.475 percent; Kansas City (Jackson County) 8.35 percent; Raytown 8.225 percent; Kansas City (Clay County) 8.1 percent; Independence, Lee’s Summit and Liberty 7.725 percent.
Mission 9 percent; Olathe and Gardner 8.875 percent; Kansas City, Kan., 8.775 percent; Lenexa 8.75 percent; Shawnee 8.625 percent; Overland Park and Leawood 8.5 percent.
These numbers include a state sales tax but not the extra local taxes that private developers get to charge because they are in the region’s growing numbers of transportation development districts or community improvement districts. And the 2 percent restaurant tax in Kansas City isn’t included, either.
Looking forward, the biggest unknown in Kansas City is whether voters will embrace the one-cent sales tax in a large part of the urban core to help finance a bigger streetcar system. That one-cent lug will be a hurdle for many, even those who see the benefits of this plan.
Voters also can do very little to quickly reduce sales taxes. City officials around the metro area are making more of them permanent. Or, they are sticking longer sunsets on taxes. For instance, Kansas City’s 2012 parks and roads levy is permanent, while taxes for bus service and public safety don’t expire until the early 2020s.
As for letting a sales tax vanish, perish the thought. That hasn’t happened often on either side of the state line.
Ask city officials why, and they’ll point out that residents have approved far more sales taxes (most for good causes, it should be noted) than they have rejected.
Where’s the stopping point? This region hasn’t found it. Yet.