Tax increase proposed to fund and staff medical research center

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Claims were made on Thursday of new health treatments and economic growth if Jackson County voters approve a sales tax increase. If you shop in Jackson County, there's a plan afoot that would increase your sales tax by as much as a half-cent for the next 20 years.

That means in some parts of the county, you could be paying just under a dime on every dollar spent. A group wants that tax to pay for and staff a medical research center. Children’s Mercy, St. Luke’s and the University of Missouri-Kansas City want that sales tax hike on the November ballot.

Civic leaders and medical experts tried to explain why a sales tax increase will improve today's health care and potentially find tomorrow’s cures.

“There's a gap, the gap from basic science, products, drugs, devices, insights, ready to take to the bedsides,” Dr. Patrick James, with Quest Diagnostics, said.

Dr. James said the proposed Jackson County institute would close the gap between research and treatment.

“We will be able to recruit the best, and brightest scientists from around the country to come to Kansas City,” Dr. John Spertus, St. Luke’s researcher, said.

Scientists and doctors would turn discoveries into drugs, devices, and new procedures that will help patients, especially children and elderly according to Dr. Spertus.

Supporters of the plan said the half-cent sales tax will generate $40 million forty million a year.  The money would be split between the three organizations, with Children`s Mercy receiving about half.

“Our residents, if they vote for this initiative, are investing in a program that will improve the care they, their parents, children receive in everyday clinical practice,” Dr. Spertus said.

The group claimed this would increase economic growth that could potentially generate millions.

"Not just great research and reputation but this means jobs, it also means improved health care outcomes for all of our citizens,” Leo Morton, UMKC Chancellor, said.

If built, the new institute will be located on Hospital Hill near Children`s Mercy, Truman Medical Center and UMKC’s Hospital Hill Campus.

Jackson county legislators must sign off on the plan for this half-cent sales tax hike by the end of this month to get it on the November ballot.  If approved, it will run for the next 20 years.

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