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What Does The Translational Medicine Vote Say About the Future of Sales Taxes?

Alex Smith

Tuesday night at The Drop in midtown Kansas City, Mo., tax opponents cheered their approval as Jackson County election results popped up on the big-screen television. A ballot measure to create a half cent sales tax for medical research was voted down by more than 5-to-1.

Former Kansas City Star writer Jim Fitzpatrick was a leader against the tax. He believed the vote signaled more than a rejection of a single tax proposal.

"I think it could be the dawning of a new era of public scrutiny of tax proposals in Kansas City," Fitzpatrick said.

Wednesday morning, as a guest on KCUR's Up To Date, the Kansas City Star's Dave Helling echoed Fitzpatrick. Helling said that even with over $2.5 million at its disposal, the pro-tax campaign did not have much luck convincing the public.

"When you get voters telling you no in such a loud, aggressive way, that suggests that they just didn't like this idea period," said Helling.

But it may have been more than just this idea.

Helling said that many tax opponents actually liked the medical research plan but could not accept the idea of a sales tax paying for it.

"Enthusiasm for sales taxes way be waning a bit around here," said Helling. "You just pile it on and on and on, and eventually there is a limit. We may have seen that limit last night."

Helling said over the next year it would become more clear if Tuesday's vote was indicative of a growing anti-sales tax sentiment as area voters return to the polls to decide on other measures. 

David Westbrook, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Children's Mercy, told Up To Date that the hospital was still interested in a big medical research initiative but would not seek funding through another ballot measure in the near future.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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