Puny streetcar vote approves huge tax increases
The Kansas City Star
In Wednesday’s much-needed streetcar victory, only 350 downtown Kansas City voters favored imposing $7.1 million annually of higher sales and property taxes.
That’s not even 10 percent of the 3,600 registered voters in the transportation district where voters were allowed to vote on the taxes, per state law. Both measures passed by around 60 percent; around 200 people voted against each tax.
That means each “yes” votes had the power to impose $20,300 worth of taxes annually on consumers who pay the 1-cent higher sales tax and on commercial and residential property owners who will pay the higher property tax.
I’ve done some research and - by far - this is the highest annual tax lug created by the fewest number of voters that I can find.
For example, Kansas City voters earlier this year approved a half-cent sales tax increase for parks and other city needs.
The tax will raise $34 million a year, far more than the streetcar taxes.
However, nearly 34,700 people voted in favor of that tax. Thus, each voter imposed a future tax burden of just under $1,000 a year.
Many other taxes in Kansas City and Jackson County, especially, have been endorsed in the past. They include 1-cent sales tax renewals that now generate about $68 million a year.
Again, however, far more people have been involved in approving those taxes than were involved in endorsing the streetcar tax.
So what’s this all mean?
Yes, I’m back to my mantra that the Kansas City leaders of the streetcar project - which I support - should have held the election on Nov. 6 to allow more people in the downtown improvement district to vote on it.
If even 60 percent of the 3,600 voters had gone to the polls - and it likely would have been higher in a presidential election - around 1,300 people might have voted in favor of the streetcars (that’s 60 percent of 2,160).
At that point, each “yes” vote would have controlled the imposition of $5,500 in higher taxes per year on residents and consumers.
That’s still out-sized control of the tax purse. But it’s a lot better than the $20,300 per vote from Wednesday’s election results.
Yes, looked at from the view of streetcar backers who liked the way the election went, they eventually will be able to say that those 350 people did the right thing, built something that helped downtown Kansas City and should be congratulated for being on the right side of history.