Missouri lawmakers who want to kill earnings taxes in Kansas City and St. Louis had a rough time stringing together coherent thoughts during a hearing Thursday in Jefferson City.
Meanwhile, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and business leaders ticked off sound reasons to support the tax. Among them: The city has been fiscally responsible by cutting its workforce, has increased citizen satisfaction scores and will ask local voters on April 5 whether they want to retain the tax.
At the meeting’s outset, Columbia Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer announced that the 1 percent tax imposed in Kansas City for more than 50 years is “unconstitutional.” No court has ever made that ruling. It’s frightening that an attorney general candidate can’t grasp that fact.
Sen. Bob Onder, a St. Charles County Republican, contended the earnings tax could qualify as “taxation without representation” because some people who pay it don’t get a chance to vote on it. Yet that’s true of plenty of other taxes, such as local sales taxes paid by Kansas Citians when they, say, shop in Overland Park or Lee’s Summit.
And Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican, said Thursday’s hearing on the earnings tax was a “healthy discussion to have.” Actually, it’s destructive to engage in ignorant calls to wipe out $230 million of Kansas City’s budget in less than two years, which would dramatically imperil public safety protection for residents and visitors.
Make no mistake: The meeting was arranged so Schaefer, Lee’s Summit Republican Will Kraus and other lawmakers bankrolled by Rex Sinquefield, a St. Louis multimillionaire and ardent earnings tax opponent, could manufacture some publicity while doing Sinquefield’s bidding.
Along the way, the lawmakers forced dozens of city and business leaders to drop their more important duties and show up for a dog and pony show.
James had the quote of the day when he told the Senate Ways and Means Committee led by Kraus: “I’m not here asking for a penny. I’m simply asking you to leave us alone.”
It would be ridiculous for the General Assembly to pass this kind of bill. Fortunately, Gov. Jay Nixon has indicated he would veto such an outrage.
Schaefer, Kraus and other Sinquefield sycophants should send their press clippings from the hearing to St. Louis, say they tried their best to end the earnings tax, then put this charade behind them.