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Voters Renew Health Levy, Strike Down Anti-Nuke Measure

Elana Gordon

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, struck down a measure in Tuesday's election that would have prohibited the city from giving incentives to companies that make parts for nuclear weapons. Voters lent their support, on the other hand, to renewing a property tax that funds neighborhood health clinics, ambulance services and Truman Medical Center. Voters also favored a ballot measure requiring that most nonprofits pay an existing city hotel convention tax.

After the results were in last night, Kansas City Mayor Sly James told a group of city and health leaders at Union Station that the victories reflect the good common sense nature of Kansas City residents.

“The people of Kansas City know how to make decisions that are in the best interest of the totality,” KC Mayor Sly James told a group of city and health leaders at Union Station last night.

“Question 1: to provide medical services to those in need. Question 2: there’s really no reason for us to give up $2 million a year when nobody else is doing it. Question 3: why would we jettison jobs on a future prospect that can’t even be defined?”

Question 1

Area health advocates welcomed passage of question one, extending the region’s health levy. They emphasized the renewal comes during a time of great uncertainty in health care.

The 22-cent property tax brings in about $15 million annually to support services for people without health insurance. That amounted to about 40,000 residents benefiting from the levy last year. The nine-year renewal didn’t face any organized opposition, though it did have its critics, especially on the anti-tax front. The measure also didn’t have widespread voter support when it first passed in 2005.

That wasn’t the case this time around, with about 75 percent of voters favoring the measure.

“I just like the statement that’s being made by our community,” said John Bluford, head of Truman Medical Center. Truman gets two-thirds of the temporary health levy funds. “I think it’s a referendum. We didn’t win by a hair, we won by a considerable amount.”

About 10 percent of registered voters took to the polls.

Bluford says extending the levy is important because the federal health law may aim to expand health coverage in the years ahead, but it’s likely to be a rocky transition. Hospitals like Truman won’t get as much federal funding. States also have the option to expand Medicaid. Whether to move forward with that is currently the subject of much debate in the Missouri legislature.

Question 3

Question 3 indirectly pertained to the new Honeywell plantin Kansas City, which produces nonnuclear parts for nuclear weapons. The measure specifically bars the city from offering future incentives to any company that might supply products to the plant. Anti-nuclear activists had organized around the measure, in hopes of directing jobs and resources toward something that wasn’t as controversial.

Councilman Scott Taylor represents the district where the plant is located and said the defeat of Question 3 keeps the city in a good place for future economic development.

“This means we can continue the work we’re doing in attracting companies to Kansas City without having a restriction that would impede that and potentially send business to Overland Park, Olathe, and the surrounding communities,” said Taylor. “We can attract those companies to Kansas City."

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