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Judge rules earnings tax referendum can stay on Missouri ballot

As expected, Judge Jon Beetem has refused to strike the earnings tax proposal known as Proposition A from the November ballot.

Kansas City city attorney Galen Beaufort argued last Friday that the measure should be removed from voters’ consideration because it contained more than one subject and improperly changed Kansas City’s charter.

Beetem’s order — attached below — rejected both arguments, although it also says some of the issues raised are not “ripe”; that is, they can’t be decided until voters vote.

“We’re very pleased,” said Marc Ellinger, a spokesman for Let Voters Decide, the committee which gathered petition signatures forcing Proposition A onto the ballot. “I think people across the state acknowledge that a third level of income tax is not a positive thing.”

Opponents of Proposition A say they’re not giving up, and they plan to mount a strong campaign to defeat the measure in November.

“Our support grows every day,” said Mark Jones, campaign coordinator for United for Missouri’s Priorities, which represents a coalition of groups opposing the ballot measure. “We believe we have a very good chance in November.”

Jones said the campaign has support from the Kansas City Chamber and Civic Council, Jobs with Justice, the AFL-CIO, and firefighters, police and other government employees throughout the state. He said local elected officials in the Missouri Municipal League also resent one wealthy St. Louis businessman trying to tell them how to run their cities, and are urging their constituents to defeat Sinquefield’s proposal.

City Councilwoman Cindy Circo said Kansas City government cannot direct a campaign against the ballot measure, but city and civic leaders will campaign aggressively to preserve the earnings tax.

She said many neighborhood leaders still don’t realize this is a statewide vote. She said that when Kansas City residents realize the entire state gets to weigh in on the city’s earnings tax, they get mad.

“It’s so much to educate,” she said. “The campaign will use this opportunity to educate.”

The court will continue to hear other legal arguments, but after Election Day. That means — barring an intervention from an appeals court today — Prop A will be on the Missouri ballot.

Prop A would require Kansas City and St. Louis to hold referendums on their one percent earnings taxes every five years or lose the right to collect it. Other Missouri cities would be barred from enacting an earnings tax.

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