City earnings tax debate gets heated in House committee hearing

A House committee hearing on four bills introduced by legislators designed to repeal the earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City resulted in a heated debate between the mayors of those cities, lawmakers and a representative of an anti-tax organization on Wednesday.

State lawmakers teed off on Stephanie Lewis, a representative of anti-earnings tax group “Vote No on the E-tax,” accusing her of using the hearing to make a political advertisement. The testy exchange came just one day after St. Louis financier Rex Sinquefield contributed $618,000 to the anti-earnings tax campaign.

The Mayors of Kansas City and St. Louis also went on the offensive with legislators, arguing that the loss of the 1-percent taxes paid by people who work in their cities would result in deep cuts to their police and fire departments, which rely on the tax for one-third of the city services budget.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said of his city’s tax, “Unless we have a viable and acceptable way to replace $164-million dollars … then we need to keep the tax in place.”

Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the repeal proposals are based solely on a political agenda.

Lawmakers in favor of the repeal argue that fewer than half the people who pay earnings taxes get to vote on them. They also argue that people from outside those cities that pay the taxes benefit less from the services they pay for and that the taxes violate the constitutional prohibition on double-taxation.

No votes have been taken in the House on the proposed bills.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missourinet

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