Checkmate: KCMO voters, Pat Gray’s pawns are poised to trap themselves with the E-tax.
In chess, one seemingly simple, kneejerk move can lead to losing the game.
But when the tax formula is wrong, you have to FIX it! Or lose the game. It’s that simple.
KCMO voters will trudge to the polls one more time, Tuesday, April 5. And a NO vote would repeal once and for all the E-tax–the crack cocaine of the KCMO budget.
The big question: Will voters stop hating on Johnson County long enough to save the resale value on their homes? Will they wake up: their tax formula is horribly out of whack. Now they have only ONE CHANCE to force the City Council to fix it.
My former controversial employee from the ’70’s, ad man Pat Gray, misleads voters with his campaign supporting extension of the E-tax. If he’s successful in manipulating voters as his pawns, Kansas City will likely be locked in, and addicted forever to its losing formula for economic development. Checkmate.
Then Gray will return to his Spanish hacienda in Leawood, laughing all the way to the bank.
Meanwhile, KCMO homeowners will be trapped in a death spiral. Gray’s campaign actually advertises the impending death of KCMO. His TV spots say: “Save our city!” (It’s not his city, by the way.) And the picture he paints of 500 cops and 500 firefighters being taken off the street? Preposterous fear mongering. That assumes the City Council would not replace and rebalance their funding. (With a NO vote, the E-tax would be phased out permanently over 10 years.) Those plans are already in the works, including a Trash Fee of $180 per year.
On Tuesday, April 5, election day, KCMO has ONE chance to restructure its tax base, and get it right. One chance to stop the bleeding, the migration of smart businesses and homeowners to Johnson County and elsewhere.
The vote to “renew the 1 % E-tax for five years” will mean continued overreliance on Johnson County residents, employees who work in KCMO, to subsidize the Titanic government that is KCMO. By that time, their Ship of State may have sunk.
Even more businesses will depart KCMO. Because their taxing formula drives them away.
The addiction began in 1964. Politicians snorted up the easy money without ANY citizen review. It became their heroin.
For almost 50 years, the E-tax was permanent. First ½ %, then only one vote: to increase it to 1% in 1970.
Naïve voters were tricked by the lure of free trash bags!!! And avoiding a Trash Fee.
It was only through the generosity of billionaire financial baron Rex Sinquefield that last fall, a ONE TIME colossal statewide petition campaign allowed the voters to actually decide if this tax should continue. Sinquefield spent $11 million to act on conservative principle to allow the voters to decide. Good for him. He lives in St. Louis, where it is predicted they WILL overturn the tax. So his work is done. He gave voters their chance.
Rex the Wonder Dog won’t finance another election.
Gray is a pit bull fighter. Ever since he worked for me, when my agency ran the campaign to overturn the Missouri Blue Laws in the 70’s, his winning formula has pitted KCMO against Johnson County. His campaign this time, (like BiState II which he lost five years ago for the Hunt Family) echoes the exact themes we used.
He’s relying on the old Mizzou v. KU rivalry.
But Johnson County isn’t the enemy. It’s overreliance on one giant egg in KCMO’s tax basket.
Forty percent of the general fund, half of it estimated to come from Johnson County, is the problem. So what if $100 million a year comes in now from JoCo? How much MORE is KCMO losing overall with the mass migration of business revenue? Plus homeowners who flee their school district and choose to live in JoCo instead? That math is far more insidious and less obvious.
It’s far easier to hate on suburban JoCo than design a tax formula that is a magnet for urban greatness.
Business owners aren’t stupid. They’re smarter than the average voter. And have better development lawyers. In fact, KCMO is currently buying off big businesses, one at a time, by quietly and selectively cutting private deals exempting them from the E-tax, to stay in KCMO. That makes real suckers out of the small business owners and homeowners. They can never get those deals.
Let me ask: Did you stop crying long enough after KU imploded in the Elite 8 Sunday, to watch Leslie Stahl on CBS 60 Minutes? About why so many American big businesses relocated to Switzerland or Canada rather than pay the 35% corporate tax lug to Uncle Sam?
Or have you seen the TV spots–all in Chinese–where they laugh about our stupidity, how America now works for them? Because America tried to borrow and spend its way out of a great recession?
Will KCMO voters wise up and take the mulligan? Break the big egg, and replace it with a dozen less onerous ones? They have this one chance to win in this game.
Tracy Thomas writes political commentary and satire. Her escape from KCMO’s E-tax, high crime and declining property values to Shawnee went down in 1992. Take her on at tracy@kcconfidential