For a complete list of candidates and issues, see the Jackson County Advocate print edition. Below is information on three State Amendments and two State Propositions that will be on Tuesday’s ballot.
Proposition A: Earnings Tax
A ‘yes’ vote for Proposition A will trigger cities which have an earnings tax--only Kansas City and St. Louis--to put the tax before voters in April 2011. If voters approve the tax at that point, then it will be kept as-is for five years. If voters reject the tax in April, then it will be phased out over a ten-year period, beginning January 1, 2012.
A ‘no’ vote for Proposition A means Kansas City and St. Louis can continue collecting earnings tax revenues, as they have been.
Kansas City officials say the earnings tax accounts for a significant portion of the city’s revenue, and helps the city maintain a good credit rating. Currently the tax accounts for 45% of the general fund, or $200 million. According to acting City Manager Troy Schulte, 40% ($80 million) of the earnings tax comes from non-residents of Kansas City, who work within the city limits.
“The earnings tax is a nice way to share the burden of regional amenities such as the zoo and Liberty Memorial,” Schulte said at the Southern Communities Coalition meeting.
Proposition B: Puppy Mills
A “yes” vote on Proposition B will require breeders of large dogs to provide each dog with sufficient food, water, living space and housing, as well as regular exercise, rest between breeding cycles, and appropriate veterinary care. The proposition would also prohibit any breeder from having more than 50 dogs for the purpose of selling puppies as pets. It would create a misdemeanor crime of “puppy mill cruelty” for any violation of the law.
A “no” vote would not impose these regulations.
Officials estimate the proposal could cost government entities more than half a million dollars to enforce, but officials say if the proposal passes, it will have no impact on taxes.
The activist group Missourians for the Protection of Dogs was instrumental in getting the proposition on the ballot, having collected more than 190,000 signatures in May. The organization is a coalition of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals, and the Humane Society – all of which have endorsed the proposition. It has also been endorsed by the Jackson County Legislature and Linda Bond, wife of U.S. Senator Kit Bond.
Amendment 1: County Assessors
The Missouri General Assembly proposed this amendment, which would require the office of county assessor – the government official who determines how much property owners will pay in real estate taxes – to be an elected position. It only applies, however, to counties with a population of less than 600,001 that are ruled by a County Charter. Jackson County has more than 600,000 residents, therefore making it the only county in the state that would be exempt from the Amendment.
A “yes” vote on this amendment is a vote to require all county assessors – except for Jackson County – to be elected.
A “no” vote would leave things the way they are, with most counties appointing, not electing, assessors.
According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, the amendment is not expected to have any significant affect on government costs or taxes.
Amendment 2: Property Tax
Exemption for Disabled POWs
The Missouri General Assembly also proposed an amendment that would exempt former prisoners of war who have a total service-related disability from paying property taxes. A “yes” vote on Amendment 2 is a vote for exempting such veterans from property taxes. A “no” vote is a vote not to create the exemption.
The number of qualified veterans is unknown, say state officials, but the numbers are expected to be small, and the cost to local governments is considered minimal. The most likely cost to the state is a slight drop in the blind pension fund – about $1,200.
The Missouri Family Network has endorsed the plan, which is supported by a majority of Missouri legislators. They say it’s a fair way to reduce tax burdens on disabled veterans who have sacrificed their health for their country.
Opponents, such as Missouri Citizens for Tax Justice, argue that all Missourians should contribute to state taxes, and that the amendment will duplicate existing tax credits.
Qualified vets are any who were prisoners of foreign governments or unlawful combatants during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or military action in Iraq or Afghanistan and who are also fully disabled as a direct result of their military service.
Amendment 3: No Potential Transfer Tax
Amendment 3, which was placed on the ballot by an initiative petition, would prohibit state, county and municipal governments from placing any new tax – including sales tax – on the sale or transfer of homes or other real estate.
A “yes” vote on Amendment 3 is a vote to prohibit new passage of such taxes. A “no” vote would leave that option available for state officials in the future.
Officials say the proposal would have no impact on state funds – either positive or negative. It would not repeal an existing tax, just prevent any new ones.
Proponents of the amendment say it will protect property owners from “double taxation.”
Ron Yaffe, a local real estate agent, told the Southern Communities Coalition on Oct. 20 that surrounding states – including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Arkansas – have already passed “transfer” taxes, which he said can be especially devastating to family farmers.
“I’m not aware that there is any effort to do this in Missouri, but this makes sure there never will be an effort to do it.”
The amendment was placed on the ballot by a petition circulated primarily by the Vote Yes to Stop Double Taxation Committee. When the group turned its signatures into the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, it was declined on the grounds that the group did not provide an estimate of the number of signatures. The state announced on Aug. 3 that the measure failed to qualify for the ballot.
The Missouri Association of Realtors responded with the threat of a lawsuit to challenge the state’s findings. On Aug. 31, a Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled that the petition did qualify and it was then placed on the ballot.