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At NAACP Forum, Mayor James Makes Yet Another Plea To Keep Earnings Tax

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Mayor Sly James speaks to voters at an NAACP forum to discuss the earnings tax.

Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James made an impassioned plea on behalf of the earnings tax campaign at a NAACP forum Thursday night.

“I think the earnings tax is of particular interest to Kansas Citians, whether they’re black, white or Latino,” James said before the forum, which about two dozen people attended.

Revenue generated from the 1 percent tax on people who live or work in the city makes up the bulk of the general fund and pays for vital city services like police, fire and ambulance. State law requires a vote to renew the earnings tax every five years.

The earnings tax is sometimes criticized as a regressive tax that hurts the poor.

“So, why don’t we do a different type of tax? Well, a sales tax is totally regressive and would be paid for by everybody regardless of your circumstances,” James said. “The sales tax doesn’t care if you make $1 or $1,000.”

The forum came after the city revealed its proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

“The budget is for the first time in over a decade one where we actually have money,” James said. “It’s amazing. We’re not having to cut. We’re not having to have a hiring freeze. There will be modest raises, but raises nonetheless.”

But he cautioned that could all go away if voters don’t come out to support the earnings tax in April. The last time it was on the ballot, Kansas Citians supported it overwhelmingly.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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