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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

St. Louis Earnings Tax Wins Easy Retention

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 9:50 PM

click to enlarge St. Louis City Hall - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/JACOB NORLUND
It wasn't even close.

City voters overwhelmingly reauthorized St. Louis' one percent earnings tax today, agreeing for the second time in five years to keep taxing the incomes of residents as well as those who work within its borders.

Unofficial results from the board of election commissioners show that 72.3 percent of voters cast ballots "yes" to retain the tax, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. (Turnout? A strikingly — and predictably — low 26 percent.)

The vote is another huge loss for Rex Sinquefield, the deep-pocketed conservative philanthropist. Sinquefield spent more than $2 million to convince voters to scrap the tax. And that's on top of money he spent years ago to ensure such a vote was required in the first place — in 2010, Sinquefield successfully pushed a statewide ballot measure to require St. Louis and Kansas City to vote every five years to retain their earnings taxes.

The tax covers about one-third of the city's general fund.

Mayor Francis Slay said this in a statement: “There has been a good week of news for City residents. First, NGA; now a resounding victory for Yes on E. City voters rejected a very dangerous gamble with our public safety and credit rating. The people who helped win tonight – as grassroots as you can get – are now poised to do even more great things.”

Stephanie Lewis, the anti-tax spokeswoman, said in a statement, "Over the past several weeks of this campaign, we talked to more than 10,000 voters on their front porches. Tonight, over 12,000 voters voiced their opposition to the status quo directly on the ballot. So, tomorrow begins the next phase of this campaign. We will begin thoroughly examining City Government to find inefficiencies and waste and make specific recommendations for phasing out the earnings tax without cutting police, fire, or vital city services. We will then work with city officials to begin the implementation."

City voters are apparently in a pro-tax mood. Preliminary results show that they also approved a bond measure for the fire department and a tax levy for the St. Louis Public Schools. Two measures pushed by the metropolitan sewer district also cruised to easy victory.

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