On Tuesday Kansas City voters will decide on continuing the city’s 1% earnings tax, the loss of which would be devastating to bicycling and walking and stop all the progress the city has made in recent years.
Bike/ped projects are mostly funded from two sources, 1) the General Fund and 2) the half-cent capital improvements sales tax.
The biggest impact on General Fund cuts would be to the city staff who design bike/ped projects and deliver programs. The Public Works Department has two staff dedicated to this – a Bike/Ped Coordinator and a Project Manager. Significant layoffs of city staff would be likely without the earnings tax, and the bike/ped program would not be immune. Without staff, we’d go back to the days where no trails or bike lanes got built because we had no one at City Hall to do it.
Capital Improvements Sales Tax
This dedicated infrastructure tax is the primary source of funds to build trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. This tax wouldn’t go away, but most of it would shift to emergency maintenance. There would be no money left to build new trails or bike lanes, and very little money to maintain the existing facilities.
The Police Department is largely funded by the General Fund and earnings tax, so it would also be subject to significant cuts. As inadequate as current traffic law enforcement is, imagine how little attention we would get if the KCPD was laying off homicide detectives and narcotics officers.
Replacing the earnings tax
Cities without earnings taxes generally have much higher property taxes and sales taxes, as well as higher fees on trash collection, utility bills, etc. The City estimates property taxes on the average house would go up by $1,000 a year, and/or the sales tax would have to go over 13%. Landlords will surely pass on the higher property taxes to tenants. Both tax increases would go over state caps and require permission from Jefferson City, and it’s unlikely the folks in Jeff City would let us city folk raise our own taxes.
A sales tax of 13% could devastate bike shops in the city limits. Our local bike shops already operate on very small profit margins and would have to pass the higher sales tax onto customers. KCMO bike shops will be at a huge disadvantage with their suburban competitors.
Consider your own budget. Would 1% of your earnings be more or less than a $1,000 property tax increase? Would that 1% tax cut be worth paying a 13% sales tax? Would it be worth traveling to the suburbs to shop when stores in the city limits relocate or close?
Learn more from the two campaigns: