Mayor James Testifies Against Legislation That Would Kill Kansas City Earnings Tax

January 14, 2016 - KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Mayor Sly James today urged the Missouri General Assembly 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.

“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.”

“I’m not here today asking you for a penny,” James said. “What I’m asking for is . . . [to allow] the citizens of Kansas City the means to control their own destiny.”

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 added that 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 also said the measure would jeopardize the overall state economy. Kansas City and St Louis make up 85% of the gross domestic product of all of the state’s major metro areas; and accounted for 73% of all jobs created in Missouri from June 2014 to June 2015, according to state and federal economic statistics cited by James.

“If the earnings tax ends, no Kansas Citian wins,” James said. “And as Kansas City goes, so goes the region. If the region and St. Louis take a hit, so does Missouri.”

Senate Bill 575 would  prohibit any Missouri city from imposing an earnings tax after December 31, 2017. It also would repeal the authority of Kansas City and St. Louis to ever again submit the tax to the voters of those cities.

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Note to editors and reporters: The mayor’s testimony as prepared for delivery is available upon request to  michael.grimaldi@kcmo.org. Further information about Senate Bill 575 is available at http://www.senate.mo.gov/16info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=22246556 .

Contact: Michael Grimaldi: 816-513-6579 or cell: 816-945-2902