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Missouri lawmakers renew tax that funds Kansas City public transit

Local officials had warned lawmakers that failure to renew the public transportation tax would have consequences felt throughout the Kansas City community.
Local officials had warned lawmakers that failure to renew the public transportation tax would have consequences felt throughout the Kansas City community. The Kansas City Star

Missouri lawmakers voted Thursday to permanently renew a Kansas City sales tax that provides roughly one-third of the city’s public transportation budget.

The 102-54 vote in the House sends the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon. If he signs it, a half-cent sales tax that generates $35 million for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority would become permanent. It is set to expire Dec. 31.

“We won’t have to worry as much about uncertainty and instability with our transportation funding in the future,” said Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat who shepherded the bill through the legislative process. “There were definitely some moments when I was worried we wouldn’t get this done, but I’m just glad we did.”

Getting a tax increase, no matter the size, through a Republican-dominated General Assembly was no easy task. And with only a week left before lawmakers adjourn for the year, a number of amendments to the bill were drafted that would have put it’s chances of success in doubt.

In the end, none of those amendments were offered, and the bill sailed through the House Thursday with little discussion. It passed the Senate last month.

The Missouri General Assembly voted to allow Kansas City and St. Louis to enact a sales tax up to one cent to support public transit in 1971. Since then, both cities passed a half-cent sales tax, which was originally set for review by the General Assembly every two years.

In 2003, lawmakers voted to make the St. Louis sales tax permanent.

Local officials had warned lawmakers that failure to renew the tax would have consequences felt throughout the Kansas City community, including a dramatic reduction in bus service in Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties in Missouri; and Johnson, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.

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