In a couple of hours, polls open on a local election, one forced on the city of St. Louis, against its will, by rural voters, in a campaign funded by a rural investment multi-millionaire. Because rural state voters outnumbered city voters by a wide margin, the cities of St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri, must hold regular elections on this question: will the city commit suicide, yes or no?
The issue in question is the local earnings tax. People who live inside the city limits love it, for the same reason people all over America love hotel and motel taxes: it's a tax that they mostly don't pay, one paid mostly by people who don't get to vote on it. That's less true, though, of the earnings tax; unlike tourism taxes, most of the people who pay the earnings tax are people who live in the city. But it has always grated on people who live out in Whiteflightville and Rural Redneckistan that, if they commute into St. Louis or Kansas City for their job, the city gets to charge them income tax. The amount involved is tiny, 1%. And I don't see how anybody in their right mind can argue that the people who are paying that tax don't benefit, to that tiny amount, from the existence of the cities, if only because they have jobs, jobs that wouldn't exist if the city itself didn't exist. So no, no matter how many redneck millionaires and white flight exurbanites whine and cry about it, I don't think it's an unreasonable tax. Don't want to pay a 1% payroll tax on your job at some high rise corporate headquarters? Go to work for some high rise corporate headquarters that's out there in Redneckistan -- oh, wait, there aren't any. Because those kinds of businesses need cities. Which cost money. Deal with it.
If we're only talking about a 1% payroll tax, why am I calling this a suicide pact for the city if they fail to renew it? Because that tiny 1% payroll tax accounts for one third of all city government revenues. If it goes away, the city will face two choices: raise all other taxes and fees by 50%, from parking meter fees and garbage collection fees to property taxes and sales taxes, or else eliminate 1/3rd of everything, no exceptions. Every third police station, closed. Every third police car on patrol, sold off. Every third fire station, closed; every third fire truck, sold off. Every third pothole, permanently unpatched. Every third school, permanently closed; every third teacher, permanently laid off. And I do mean permanently, too: thanks to that obnoxious state constitutional amendment, no city may ever impose a new earnings tax; if it fails once, it fails forever unless Missouri voters, state wide, vote again to amend the constitution to take it back.
If you think that everything east of Skinker should look like Kinloch looks after the airport took away its tax base, vote to repeal the earnings tax. If you think that the city of St. Louis needs to be as empty of jobs, bombed out, full of sick people, horrifically illiterate and over-run by armed thugs as East St. Louis became after the Illinois state legislature took away their entire tax base, vote to repeal the earnings tax. It's your suicide, city voters: you get to decide whether you live or die, today.