So that’s that – Wichita voters overwhelmingly nixed a citywide 1 percent sales tax for water, buses, streets and economic development Tuesday. Except that can’t be the end of it, because the needs aren’t going away.
The “no” side’s triumph was no surprise. Ask people whether they want to raise their own taxes, and most would say “no.” The contest also was lopsided, thanks to Koch Industries’ decision to plow untold thousands of dollars into the “no” campaign.
But city leaders probably didn’t help themselves by narrowing the to-do list to basics including street repair and bus service that arguably should be funded by property tax. If they had aimed for a new convention or performing arts center, a 21st-century downtown library or other infrastructure upgrade that people could imagine and get excited about, would the outcome have been different?
Will the city now try again, perhaps taking up opponents on their demands that the jobs fund be dropped or that voters be able to pick and choose among spending priorities? Considering the size of Tuesday’s loss, it’s hard to imagine anyone being enthusiastic about a do-over.
Will the spring elections produce a mayor and City Council willing to use the property tax to meet the city’s fundamental needs, rather than see them suffer in the name of avoiding a mill levy increase decade after decade?
In any case, the responsibility now falls to the city’s elected leaders and City Manager Robert Layton to find other ways, if not better ways, to do what a city sales tax would have done.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman