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Will They Vote to Abolish St. Louis?

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.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
lucretiasheart
Apr. 5th, 2011 06:29 am (UTC)
Having been to your fair city as a total outsider-- it seems to me that St. Louis is the last city that should be taking away city monies. St. Louis doesn't have the best infrastructure/city investment to begin with. I recall that when I visited that area, the roads all needed re-paving, repairs were needed to city buildings and other city property (parks, cop cars, you name it) the mass transit sucked (though I compare it to Portland OR, so that's relative)... and on and on.

It looked like a city that was ALREADY terribly neglected. And that was during the supposed BOOM period of 2006. So... no. Cutting a tax seems completely short-sighted.

Edited at 2011-04-05 06:31 am (UTC)
ff00ff
Apr. 5th, 2011 07:11 am (UTC)
I don't care what a bunch of charts and graphs qualified economists say, I know that when you lower taxes, revenue goes up. So logically when you eliminate taxes revenue must skyrocket! Why, with their extra 1% I bet those remarkable rural millionaires will build cities around themselves!
barefootbum.blogspot.com
Apr. 5th, 2011 10:58 am (UTC)
...else eliminate 1/3rd of everything, no exceptions.

Probably more than 1/3; the city almost certainly has some fixed expenses, such as the repayment of municipal bonds.

Even cutting the budget costs money (severance, disposal fees, sales costs, etc.). So it would probably require cutting nearly half of all city services.

But, since only the residents of the city get to vote, it probably won't pass. You want to watch out when the rednecks start lobbying the state government.
ilyena-sylph.dreamwidth.org
Apr. 5th, 2011 11:59 am (UTC)
*sighs* I am so not looking forward to tonight...
silveradept
Apr. 5th, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
And how much will that 1% be for most people? I'm guessing it's a tiny amount for each individual, and that getting that amount back wouldn't change their standards of living enough to make up for the damage that will be done.
xodiac
Apr. 6th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
I have to wonder why the heck no politician made a speech similar to this in some press conference, ad, or editorial. Or did they, and nobody listened? Because if they didn't, that's just plain incompetent leadership, to my mind.
bradhicks
Apr. 6th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Oh, they did. The campaign over that constitutional amendment was expensive, long, loud, and bitter. Almost nobody in the areas affected by it voted for it. Huge overwhelming majorities out in the rural areas did.

I have described this law, to other people, as a conscious attempt by rural Missourians to eliminate St. Louis and Kansas City entirely, because their best kids go away to college and move to the big city instead of coming home. People think I'm reading too much into it, but I don't think so -- this issue was a real turn-out-the-vote issue, out-state. People who were never going to be affected by the St. Louis or Kansas City earnings taxes showed up in unprecedented numbers specifically because this issue was on the ballot. So I don't see any other way to read the results.

Edited at 2011-04-06 01:05 am (UTC)
harmfulguy
Apr. 6th, 2011 10:30 am (UTC)
I'm sure you've seen the results, but for any visitor who hasn't: St. Louis overwhelmingly voted to keep the Earnings Tax in place.
tusipolo
Apr. 9th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
You were meant to blog. It has inspired me to start my own blog on barrie dentist

jaxeslat
Apr. 14th, 2011 10:29 am (UTC)
Hmmm for some reason only half the post can be seen. I tried reloading but still same.

(Anonymous)
Apr. 15th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
sms
Wonderful writing! You have got the talent of writing beautifully. I personally liked the way it has been drafted especially the accurate flow of brilliant ideas.And yes i have book mark your site bradhicks.livejournal.com .
kimchalister
Jun. 27th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Brad -- I miss your writings.
I really do. I follow the twitter thing, but it cuts out the conversations among the readers, which was also interesting. I hope you get re-charged some time and start writing again.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 5th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
I miss your writings! I dumped my LJ account 2 years back, and this is one of a very few that I still visit. I hope all is well with you.
kimchalister
Aug. 22nd, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Brad -- I, for one, really miss your writings. I also miss the conversations in the comments sections.
We came up with a silly explanation for what is happening in America today: It's a less virulent strain of mad cow disease we have named "stupid cow disease" and it makes people who have eaten affected beef stupid.
drewkitty
Aug. 28th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
Add my voice to the chorus wishing you well and looking forward to your future posts.
nebris
Sep. 4th, 2011 05:30 pm (UTC)
What was the outcome of this issue?

~M~
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )