KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is suing the state of Missouri and the Board of Police Commissioners challenging Senate Bill 678, which increases the allocation of the city’s general revenue from 20% to 25% for the police department.
The measure will be put before Missouri voters in November.
Lucas believes the forced increase in funding is unconstitutional and said the bill is in violation of the Hancock Amendment.
“With billions of dollars available, conservative legislators did nothing for our officers, but now pretend to support the police by creating a policy that ultimately will defund our firefighters, defund our parks, and defund road repair in Kansas City,” Lucas said.
The Hancock Amendment, passed in 1980, prohibits the state from mandating a funding increase without corresponding move and providing state funds go cover the cost of the increase.
“In the past year, I have requested more than $13 million from the State of Missouri’s $2.7 billion American Rescue Plan Fund to support hazard pay for our officers who served on the frontlines during the COVID 19 pandemic and to procure lifesaving equipment for Kansas City police officers,” Lucas said. “Missouri leaders denied our request to help Kansas City police officers.”
Missouri Governor Mike parson signed the bill on June 27 and Lucas said he would challenge the bill at that time.
“The radical legislation provides no pay guarantees for our officers, will not hire a single police officer, and ignores the will and importance of Kansas City taxpayers, instead attempting to politicize policing in Kansas City at a time we sorely need bipartisan solutions to violent crime,” Lucas said.
The bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Tony Luetkemeyer from Platte County, was brought on after Kansas City tried to move $43 million into a community services fund where the police department would have to ask the city to use it for their initiatives in 2021.
“Well, we saw the antics of the city council in May of last year where they stripped over $42 million worth of funding of the KCPD,” Luetkemeyer said. “They did so without any sort of warning to the chief of police, without any sort of warning to the Board of Police Commissioners, and if those funding cuts would have stuck, it would have totally destabilized this police department.”
The mayor’s office indicates it will file the lawsuit Wednesday morning.
“We will take all steps necessary to oppose the statewide tax increase amendment applying only to Kansas Citians and to stand up for the rights of our taxpayers, and we will continue to work locally with our police department to build a safer Kansas City,” Lucas said.
The mayor claims he requested more than $13 million in hazard pay and equipment for police from Missouri’s American Rescue Plan fund, but Jefferson City denied the request during the pandemic.
The mayor says he continues to support pay increases for police, and hiring more police officers, but not at the expense of other vital city services.
“I think it certainly would be a drain on an already drained and exhausted general fund,” Lucas said. “In our five year budget plan we have a structural imbalance. So we need to find a place to cut. And I think what Kansas Citians don’t want to do is decide: Do we want to lay off 100 firefighters to be able to pay for 50 cops? Do we want to stop doing road resurfacing to pay for this? Particularly when the state has money.”
Reaction to the mayor’s lawsuit
Missouri state Rep. Chris Brown – a Republican representing areas North of Kansas City – disagrees with the characterization saying that the legislation is an attempt to stop situations like in 2021 when the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance requiring negotiations over how police funding is used over the 20% general fund requirement.
“Call it what you want but basically what they were doing was holding that money hostage. They were going to put it in a community fund and then they were going to dole that money back to the police department as they saw fit as long as the police department was spending the money how they felt was appropriate. And, again, that’s a very difficult way for the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department to do business,” Brown said.
“Are we trying to do any additional funding for the police department? As I see it, no we’re really not,” Brown said.
Brown describes the law as maintaining the status quo for Kansas City Police funding. He said that because there is no required increase, it means there is no new tax burden.
The lawsuit will not have movement in the court system until Dec. 7, about a month after Missouri voters weigh-in on this issue.
Mark Tolbert, President of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, issued a statement about the lawsuit:
The Board has just been made aware of the Mayor’s lawsuit, which appears to be another attempt to reduce funding for police in Kansas City. Funding of the Kansas City Police Department is an important issue that should be left to the voters in November. This lawsuit, however, does nothing to make our City safer and ignores the critical need for leaders to come to the table and solve problems. Regardless, the Board and the Police Department remain focused on working with City leadership to make our City a safe place to live.