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Debate over KC’s earning tax heats up

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Debate is heating up over the Kansas City earnings tax.

Kansas City residents will decide in two weeks whether they should renew it, and both sides are working hard to win over voters.

The Show-Me Institute is against the earnings tax and wants it abolished. They are hosting a forum at 7:30 a.m., Tuesday at their headquarters at 36th and Troost. Kansas City residents are invited to attend to hear their side of this debate.

"In KC, the earnings tax is a regressive flat tax," Patrick Tuohey with the Show-Me Institute said. "It hits you with the first dollar you earn. It disproportionately affects the poor and low wage earners."

On Monday, those who are for the earnings tax explained why they feel it’s important voters renew it for another five years.

"Citizen satisfaction surveys are up for the police department and both the firefighters and obviously, we start cutting police officers and programs, that’s going to cut into citizen satisfaction, and I don’t want to see that happen," former police chief Rick Easley said.

Five years ago, voters overwhelmingly renewed the tax by a 78-to-22-percent margin. According to city officials, the 1-percent tax on those who work within the city limits brings in more than $230-million every year. That money goes into the general fund and pays a big chunk of fire, police and ambulance service, trash pickup and street cleaning.

Supporters of the tax warn if voters don’t renew it, property and sales taxes will have to be raised to make up the difference – or else they will have to cut services. But those against the tax believe supporters are using scare tactics to get voters to renew it and argue those services will not go away if the tax is defeated at the polls.

About 50-percent of the tax is collected from people who live outside of Kansas City – and that 50-percent will not be able to vote on whether the city renews the tax.