Jul 31, 2014

UPDATED! TUESDAY PRIMARY: Kansas City Streetcar Proposal Underwrites the Rich At the Expense of the Poor. Plus a couple key Missouri Amendments!

Next week thousands of Kansas City, Missouri, voters will decide whether to expand the city’s
streetcar beyond its downtown boundaries. Although voters in the proposed district won’t
technically be voting on a tax increase on Aug. 5, approval of the new district will set the
stage for fresh taxes to support it, which would take the form of a combination of sales and
property taxes.

Supporters say the streetcar project and its expansions will draw a younger, car-averse
demographic to the city’s downtown area that city leaders say we need. But not only do the
city’s plans pose serious problems of half-baked policy; as designed, these plans pose
serious moral questions, as well.

Kansas Citians are already heavily taxed. Missouri is ranked 14th in the country in its
average state and local sales tax rates — even above Florida, which has no income tax at all.
Combined sales taxes around Kansas City regularly exceed 10%, and that’s a problem. Despite
very modest changes on the horizon, Missouri is not competitive when it comes to income tax
rates, with Kansas City even less competitive with an extra 1% earnings tax that hits
everyone, including the poor. The state isn’t distinguished on the property tax front,
either, sitting at about average nationwide. The streetcar levies would add another layer to
the region’s ever-expanding tax onion.

Some supporters say that the research “is in” on “transit oriented development” — read as:
streetcars — and they say such projects drive economic growth. Of course, that’s not what the
literature says. Rather than drive development, streetcars are generally parts of larger,
heavily subsidized project areas. In other words, it isn’t the streetcar that stokes
development, but large, concurrent subsidies that oftentimes would be there with or without
the train. That’s the reality of this proposal and others like it.

Functionally, the streetcar expansion would drain millions of dollars from poorer
neighborhoods in Kansas City to underwrite — and, frankly, to justify — the way of living of
affluent residents only a few miles away, in the city’s preferred neighborhoods downtown.
Poorer neighborhoods will get a streetcar, yes, but it is hard to believe that of all the
things Kansas City’s poorer neighborhoods need, that “streetcars” appear anywhere among their
top five or ten priorities.

That’s why it’s no wonder the proposal has engendered opposition along the proposed route,
with one important neighborhood group calling the project “touristy frou-frou.” As a local
priest wrote in an open letter,

[i]n addition to the sales tax, the streetcar proposal creates a special property assessment
district extending ½ mile on each side of the streetcar line. It would raise property taxes
an estimated 10%. But most frightening is the proposal to assess charities, schools and
churches within the corridor. That will literally take bread out of the children’s mouths and
books out of students’ hands in order to fund a streetcar.

--from Forbes


And this little tidbit...

While I have you on the horn... be sure to VOTE YES on Mo Amendment 9 to protect our privacy.

And vote NO on Amendment 1 which would give foreign and big corporations ability to take over Missouri Agriculture.   This Amendment is misnamed deliberately.  VOTE NO for the so-called Farm Fairness Amendment. Nothing fair about it for Missouri!

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