Mayor fights for continuation of earnings tax

state-capital“If the earnings tax ends, no Kansas Citian wins,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James told the state legislature yesterday. He also said eliminating the income source for Kansas City and St. Louis could jeopardize the entire state economy.

James asked the Missouri Senate Ways and Means Committee to reject a bill that would eliminate the Kansas City earnings tax and require virtually immediate elimination of nearly 1,400 firefighters and police officers, according to his office.

A bill introduced in the Senate would eliminate the earnings tax in 2017. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Council have both called the tax essential to Kansas City.

“The earnings tax is an essential and fundamentally sound tax policy that the citizens of Kansas City have embraced for half a century,” James said in testimony prepared for delivery to the Missouri Senate Ways and Means Committee at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. “It’s a bleak future without the Kansas City earnings tax.”

James told lawmakers that the earnings tax brings in $230 million of Kansas City’s $533 million general fund, 74 percent of which supports public safety, including salaries of police officers and firefighters. The bill would require reduction of 810 police officers, 550 firefighters and another 370 civilian, public-safety employees, James said.

James said the bill also would force the city to cut another 510 non-public safety positions.

“The city has gained significant efficiencies in the past decade, eliminating 675 non-public safety city staff while maintaining an all-time high citizen satisfaction rate,” James said.

James was joined in opposition to the measure by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Kansas City business leaders, police and firefighters, according to the Kansas City Star.

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