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St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 15 of 2018-2019 Session

September 14, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 15 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, the 15th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda (version 1 as of 10am yesterday includes seven (7) new bills:

  • B.B.#109 – Muhammad – An Ordinance for the creation of a disconnected youth task force to study the obstacles to education and employment to disconnected youth in the City, and requiring said task force to compile a report of their findings and recommendations to be submitted to the Mayor and a Board of Aldermen standing committee to be designated by the President of the Board of Aldermen, within one (1) year following the first meeting of the task force.
  • B.B.#110 – Williamson -An ordinance recommended by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing the issuance and delivery of not to exceed Fifty Million Dollars ($50,000,000) principal amount of General Obligation Bonds, series 2018,
    for the purposes of paying the costs of the project and the costs of issuance of such bonds, all for the general welfare, safety, and benefit of the citizens of the City; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#111 – Howard – An Ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission, to change the zoning of property as indicated onthe District Map, from “A” Single-Family Dwelling District and “F” Neighborhood Commercial to the “F” NeighborhoodCommercial District, in City Block 5177 (5347-53 Nottingham); and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#112 – Coatar – An Ordinance establishing a three-way stop site at the intersection of Missouri Avenue and Ann Avenue regulating all traffic traveling southbound on Missouri at Ann and regulating all traffic traveling eastbound and westbound on Ann at Missouri, and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#113 – Vollmer – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 3201 Morgan Ford.
  • B.B.#114 – Davis – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 2811-15 Locust.
  • B.B.#115 – Kennedy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for 408 – 410 N. Sarah.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes

September 12, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Illinois & Missouri Need To Study ‘Vehicle Miles Driven’ Tax To Replace Fuel Taxes
Fuel prices include taxes in the posted price

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll on how Illinois should fund road infrastructure maintenance/improvements was because of current political commercials in their heated race for governor.

J.B. Pritzker is up with a new ad, attacking GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and an affiliate of the Republican Governors Association over ads criticizing the Democratic governor candidate about a vehicle mileage tax.

The Rauner ad features a woman identified as “Denise Smith” warning that Pritzker “wants a car tax, which will also come along with a tracking device.” State Solutions, an RGA affiliate, accuses Pritzker in an ad of plans for a 1.5-cent-per-mile vehicle mileage tax.

Pritzker in January told the Daily Herald the idea of a vehicle mileage tax was worth “exploring” but has since said he was open to ideas on how to pay for a capital bill and wasn’t wedded to it. He did not identify a specific amount of mileage tax as the State Solutions ad alleges. (Chicago Tribune)

I used the following, from a 2016 article, to explain Illinois’ options for paying for needed roads, as outlined by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC):

GAS TAX
The MPC argues the state will need to raise $2.7 billion a year, half to spend and half to go towards bonds:

This is equivalent to a $0.30/gal increase in state motor fuel taxes and a 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees. The tax and fees should be indexed to the consumer price index to keep pace with inflation. MPC recommends the state constitution be amended to create a transportation trust fund to protect this revenue. To acknowledge the effect of these increases on lower- and middle-income Illinoisans, the state earned income tax credit should double to 20 percent of the federal amount.

Because the state’s motor fuel tax has been unchanged for so long, Illinoisans are paying far less for road maintenance today when inflation is calculated:

The Illinois Senate has used the MPC’s estimates to draft legislation that would raise the gas tax by 30 cents, making it the highest gas tax in the nation.

Of course, not everyone is happy with that proposal. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce says Illinois needs to look into other options to fix roads. The Chamber’s recommendation includes an increased state income tax and a lower wholesale gas tax, while getting rid of some tax exemptions for goods like food and medicine.

MILEAGE TAX

Senate President John Cullerton has proposed a different way to get around a gas tax hike; a mileage tax. Illinoisans would pay 1.5 cents per mile in one of three payment options. From the Daily Herald:

Drivers could have a device that tracks the miles through geolocation technology, charging only for the miles driven on public highways and roads.

Alternatively, they could have an odometer tracker, which reports only number of miles driven, not where. The downside to this, notes Susan Martinovich of CH2M, an environmental and engineering consulting firms, is that drivers would be charged for miles driven out of state.

Finally, Illinoisans could opt out of installing any devices and pay a flat mileage tax of 1.5 cents per mile for 30,000 miles.

A mileage tax would also help the state raise revenue even as gas usage declines, thanks to better fuel efficiency and electric cars. The MPC’s plan also recommended Illinois stop raising funds tied to gas purchases eventually. It pushed for a mileage tax system by 2025. (GovTech.com)

Cullerton, a Democrat, introduced SB3267 in February 2016. It never got far in the legislative process.

I want to step back from politics and look at the big picture.

The first US state tax on fuel was introduced in February 1919 in Oregon. It was a 1¢/gal tax. In the following decade, all of the US states (48 at the time), along with the District of Columbia, introduced a gasoline tax. By 1939, an average tax of 3.8¢/gal (1¢/L) of fuel was levied by the individual states.

In the years since being created, state fuel taxes have undergone many revisions.[6] While most fuel taxes were initially levied as a fixed number of cents per gallon, as of 2016, nineteen states and District of Columbia have fuel taxes with rates that vary alongside changes in the price of fuel, the inflation rate, vehicle fuel-economy, or other factors. (Wikipedia)

The first federal fuel tax happened after all the states had fuel taxes — in 1932 during the end of the Hoover administration. The initial temporary tax became permanent.  Eventually federal fuel taxes became part of a trust fund for roads. All was good for decades, but then it began to change:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the United States Congress in 1975, after the 1973–74 Arab Oil Embargo, to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) produced for sale in the United States. (Wikipedia)

These CAFE standards have been highly effective at improving the fuel economy of vehicles. Less fuel, however, means less revenue for roads. Politicians at the state & federal levels are reluctant to increase fuel taxes. The smart solution is to look at a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax. Oregon, the first state with a fuel tax became the first state to begin a test of a mileage tax.

Way back in 2001, Oregon recognized the problem that many state legislatures are now staring down: gas tax revenue is falling inexorably as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, threatening transportation budgets. The state launched a task force that investigated 28 alternative funding mechanisms before selecting a mileage tax as the one that best met a wide range of criteria: fairness, efficacy, ease of implementation, public acceptance, enforceability, privacy protection, etc.

In 2006, the state recruited 299 volunteers for participation in a year-long trial of a prototype system. Because any real-world mileage tax will be phased in over a long period of time, it has to harmonize with the existing gas tax. The Oregon experiment neatly solved this problem with a pay-at-the-pump system:

* A small GPS receiver in participants’ cars tracked miles driven.
* When participants went to the gas station to fill up, a wireless scanner at the pump detected the GPS receiver and recorded the car’s current mileage, which was then sent to a central database to determine miles driven since the last payment. No specific location data was transmitted.
* The payment system at the gas station applied either the standard gas tax (for cars that didn’t have a GPS system) or the mileage tax (for participating cars). The experiment was designed to be revenue neutral, so fees were about the same in either case. (Terrapass)

Of course, a VMT tax also has drawbacks:

Poor, disadvantaged, and rural people tend to commute farther than the affluent, and drive less efficient cars. The gas tax already charges them disproportionately. A straightforward VMT would too. Any lawmakers crafting a Vehicle Miles Traveled framework would need to consider such concerns. Again, technology could come to the rescue, identifying drivers who merit discounts or subsidies. (Wired)

If the feds & states all switched to a VMT tax to replace fuel taxes we’d see much more compact development, greater use of public transit. etc. — in a few generations. Missouri & Illinois should both join Oregon & others in studying VMT:

California is conducting a pilot VMT study, and the state of Washington is expected to conduct one, as well. Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania have all applied for federal support to test how a VMT tax could work across multiple states. (Brookings)

It’s time to change how we fund road construction.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 14 of 2018-2019 Session

September 7, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 14 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their first meeting back following their Summer break. People have family vacations, and such. Also, the chambers are not air conditioned!

Today’s meeting is the 14th meeting of the 2018-2019 session, the agenda includes ten (10) new bills:

  • B.B.#100 – Arnowitz – An Ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of the Department of Human Services, by and through the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging and on, to accept a Grant Award from St. Louis City Senior Services Fund in the amount of $50,000 over the next fiscal year and to expend those funds for the City Benefits Plus program as set forth in the Grant Award Agreement, attached hereto as Exhibit A; and containing an Emergency Clause.
  • B.B.#101 – Hubbard – An ordinance pertaining to the Al’s Restaurant,located at 1200 N. 1st Street, having as subject matter the designation of the Property as a City of St. Louis Landmark, containing definitions, Landmark Standards and a severability clause.
  • B.B.#102 – Davis – An ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, authorizing and directing the Mayor and the Comptroller, to accept and execute a certain Airport Aid Agreement offered by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the marketing and promotion of air service at the Airport for a maximum obligation of Three Hundred Fifty Thousand dollars ($350,000) for the reimbursement of direct costs associated with the projects funded under the Grant Agreement; and containing an emergency clause .
  • B.B.#103 – Bosley – An ordinance approved and recommended by the Board of Public Service and enacted pursuant to Article XXI of the City Charter and Chapter 523 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri; approving the use of condemnation by the City to acquire a site consisting of about 97 acres in North St. Louis near the intersection of Jefferson and Cass Avenues which isowned in fee simple by LCRA Holdings Corporation (“LCRAH”),which site was chosen for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new NGA West facility, and which is described more fully in Exhibit A and a map of the Property contained in Exhibit B; finding that development of the NGA West facility is in the national interest as well as the interest of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the City by continuing the City’s ongoing efforts to remedy defective or inadequate street layout, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, and other conditions which negatively impact the public health, safety, morals or welfare at and near the site of the planned NGA West project; and containing a severability clause and an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#104 – Davis – An ordinance enlarging the boundaries of the Port Authority of the City Port District, subject to the approval of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, and authorizing certain actions in connection therewith.
  • B.B.#105 – Kennedy/Pres. Reed – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Mayor to submit all necessary applications and to enter into agreements with the Missouri Foundation for Health for participation in a project to develop a criminal justice coordinating council to advance social justice and reforming pre-trial bail to reduce the jail population, and authorizing the Mayor, upon approval of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, to expend any funds received by said grant to fulfill the obligations of the grant, and containing an emergency clause
  • B.B.#106 – Muhammad – Pursuant to Ordinance 68937, an ordinanceauthorizing the honorary naming of streets, Harry’s Place Waywill begin at the intersection of Pope and West Florissant, and run west on Pope to the intersection with Rosalie.
  • B.B.#107 – Muhammad – An ordinance repealing Ordinance 65698, approved November 20, 2022, naming certain streets locatedwithin O’Fallon Park, and renaming certain of those streets asset forth in this ordinance, and authorizing and directing the Director of Streets and the Director of Parks to take all necessary actions to properly designate said streets in accordance with this ordinance.
  • B.B.#108 – P. Boyd – An Ordinance directing the Director of Streets to permanently close, barricade, or otherwise impede the flow of traffic on east/west alley-way in City Block 5000 Block, bounded by Robin, Lillian, Riverview and Theodore at a point on said alley-way that is approximately ten (10) feet southeast of the east curb line of Theodore Ave., and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#109 – Muhammad – An Ordinance for the creation of a disconnected youth task force to study the obstacles to education and employment to disconnected youth in the City of St. Louis, and requiring said task force to compile a report of their findings and recommendations to be submitted to the Mayor and a Board of Aldermen standing committee to be designated by the President of the Board of Aldermen, within one (1) year following the first meeting of the task forc

For more on BB #103 see City Seeks to Eminent Domain its Own Property.  The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

September 5, 2018 Economy, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Please Vote Yes on Prop B to Raise Missouri’s Minimum Wage

A lot of people fear increasing minimum wages, but where it has increased the dire predictions have not come true.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found in a 2011 study, every dollar increase in the minimum wage corresponds with an annual increase in consumer spending per minimum wage household by $2,800. It makes sense. Elevating wages strengthens consumers’ buying power. Workers with more money in their pockets are also consumers who support local businesses, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and opportunity for our residents and our local economy.

There will always be Chicken Littles who are sure the sky is falling in the face of progress, but Chicago has proven them wrong. The city that works has clearly shown fair pay and a strong business climate can go hand-in-hand. (Crain’s Chicago Business)

When those at the bottom get a raise the money gets spent immediately. It often gets spent locally. This is true for big cities, and in rural communities. Yes, some businesses will have higher wage costs but they’ll likely see higher revenues as people have more money to spent.

Will raising the minimum wage have an effect on taxes and taxpayers?

Because people who earn minimum wage are those most likely to spend their income and spend it with local small businesses for basic necessities like food and clothing, it is estimated by the state of Missouri that state and local government tax revenue could increase by as much as $214 million dollars.

Additionally, the extra money spent by low-wage workers gets funneled back to businesses large and small that need to hire more workers to keep up with the increased demand, helping to create even more economic growth. That’s great for those small, local businesses and it’s great for Missouri taxpayers. (Raise Up Missouri FAQ)

In November Missouri voters will consider a slow graduated increase of the minimum wage, here’s the ballot language for Proposition B:

Do you want to amend Missouri law to:

  • Increase the state minimum wage to $8.60 per hour with 85 cents per hour increase each year until 2023, when the state minimum wage would be $12.00 per hour;
  • Exempt government employers from the above increase; and
  • Increase the penalty for paying employees less than the minimum wage?

State and local governments estimate no direct costs or savings from the proposal, but operating costs could increase by an unknown annual amount that could be significant. State and local government tax revenue could change by an unknown annual amount ranging from a $2.9 million decrease to a $214 million increase depending on business decisions. (Raise Up Missouri)

The full detailed language can be viewed here.

Missouri’s current minimum wage is $7.85/hour.  Three border states (Oklahoma, Kansas, & Iowa) have a lower minimum wage than Missouri — all are the same, $7.25. The three other border states (Arkansas, Nebraska, & Illinois) have higher minimum wages than Missouri. Of the three that are higher, they range from $8.25 (Illinois) to $9 (Nebraska).

Hourly workers aren’t just teens, they include all sorts — including Yale-educated actors like Geoffrey Owens:

He went on to say that he took the job at the grocery store because it allowed him the “flexibility” he needed to stay in the entertainment business.

Owens still acts and has been teaching acting classes for several years. He has a net worth of $300,000. In addition to his work on The Cosby Show over the years, Owens has appeared on episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, That’s So Raven, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, Medium, Without a Trace, Flashforward, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Affair.

Owens worked at Trader Joe’s for 15 months but had to quit because of the unwanted attention, however, the company said that he is welcome to come back anytime. (Source)

Owens is the son of a former librarian turned congressman (since retired, deceased).  Hourly workers might be 17…or 57, but they’re working and their earnings will likely be spent — going back into the economy.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: How do you plan to vote on Proposition B in the November 2018 midterm election?

  • Definitely no 4 [19.05%]
  • No 0 [0%]
  • Leaning no  0 [0%]
  • Unsure 2 [9.52%]
  • Leaning yes  4 [19.05%]
  • Yes 1 [4.76%]
  • Definitely yes 9 [42.86%]
  • I’m not a Missouri voter 1 [4.76%]

Please vote YES on Prop B on November 6th.

— Steve Patterson

 

Thoughts on Tuesday’s Primary

August 10, 2018 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Thoughts on Tuesday’s Primary
Missouri Capital, Jefferson City, MO, April 2011

Today you get my thoughts on Tuesday’s election, starting in…Ohio’s special election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat. As you’ve likely heard, Ohio’s 12th District has been in GOP hands for decades. Trump won big in the district. Yet, GOP nominee Balderson is barely leading.

Election officials in Franklin County found 588 previously uncounted votes in a Columbus suburb. The result: O’Connor had a net gain of 190 votes, bringing the race’s margin down to 1,564.

“The votes from a portion of one voting location had not been processed into the tabulation system,” according to a Franklin County Board of Elections news release.

Balderson declared victory Tuesday night in the closely watched congressional district race in central Ohio. But O’Connor says he’s waiting for all votes to be counted. 

That includes 3,435 provisional ballots and 5,048 absentee ballots, which will be tabulated by Aug. 24.  (USA Today)

Interestingly, regardless of who is declared the winner these same two will face off again in November. Tuesday’s special election was to finish the term into January 2019. One may win now, but lose in November. The seat may stay in GOP hands, but it’s significant the race is so close. However, I don’t think this signals a nationwide “blue wave”, as each house district has unique circumstances, local economy, for example.

Here in Missouri I quietly thought deep red outstate voters would approve right-to-work. In May the vote on the referendum was moved up to August from November to increase the odds of passage — it still failed:

Missouri voters handed the state’s unions and the labor movement nationwide a win Tuesday evening, opting to reject the state’s right-to-work law.
Tuesday’s referendum in the state gave voters the chance to strike down a law the state Legislature passed last year that would prohibit employees from being forced to join a union or to otherwise pay “fair share” fees to a given workplace’s union. Rules like this are commonly referred to as “right-to-work” laws, and by prohibiting requirements for employees to join a union or pay fees to a union negotiating on their behalf, they are generally understood to weaken labor organizations in places where they are enacted. (CNN)

Maybe Missouri isn’t as red as I thought. Of course, it has gone for GOP presidential candidates for the last five presidential elections. Still, Missouri’s senior senator is moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill. As expected, she easily won the Tuesday primary. I voted for one of challengers to her left. Many of you know, in November 2016 I voted Green in the presidential race because I knew Missouri’s electoral college votes would go Red, not Blue. The U.S, Senate race is very different — every single vote matters. McCaskill is too conservative for me, but I’ll vote Blue in November to keep Hawley out and increase the odds of Democrats taking over the Senate.

It was exciting seeing Cori Bush campaign for the U.S, House with New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but incumbent Lacy Clay still won the primary.

Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, a longtime incumbent and the scion of a St. Louis political dynasty, held onto his seat in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, fending off a primary challenger from Cori Bush, a nurse, pastor and progressive political activist. 

Bush had hoped to replicate the success of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed her and pulled off a similar upset when she defeated New York Rep. Joe Crowley in June. But Lacy Clay’s longstanding ties to the district were too much to overcome.

Before Lacy Clay won his seat in the 2000 election, his father ? Bill Clay, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus ? had held it since 1969. Lacy Clay is a career politician, first winning office almost immediately after graduating college. (Huffington Post)

I loathe political dynasties. I like 2-term limits for President, but 8 year term limits in Jefferson City has been a disaster. I do think in the US House we need limited of stay 10-15 terms. We also need big money out of politics.

Another incumbent successfully fended off a challenger.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger narrowly survived a tough Democratic primary challenge on Tuesday, but there could still be trouble ahead.

More daunting than the November general election, where he faces nominal Republican opposition, may be governing Missouri’s largest county in partnership with an antagonistic county council. A bipartisan coalition there has clashed with Stenger for more than a year, and Stenger’s last consistent council ally was toppled by a young challenger in Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s going to be a very difficult four years for the county executive unless he develops some support on the county council,” said E. Terrence Jones, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-St. Louis whose research includes metropolitan governance. (Post-Dispatch)

It’ll be interesting to watch St. Louis County politics play out. Also interesting to watch will be the County Prosecutor’s office, because incumbent Robert McCulloch, first elected in 1990, lost on Tuesday.

Political scholars and St. Louis-area lawyers said Wednesday that McCulloch lost for reasons other than Ferguson. Having served for nearly three decades, McCulloch dismissed Bell for his inexperience as a prosecutor and didn’t consider him a serious candidate. Part of his message during the campaign was that Bell had never prosecuted a felony case.

“It’s difficult when you’ve not had a tough contest in a long time to gear back up again,” said E. Terrence Jones, professor emeritus in the political science department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “Wesley Bell showed a tremendous ability to mobilize millennials and get them involved in the race, which enabled him to close much of the financial gap between himself and Bob McCulloch.”

Bell benefitted, too, from other Senate and House primaries on the Democratic ballot that boosted turnout in districts in north and central St. Louis County, Jones said. (Post-Dispatch)

I was 23 when I moved to St. Louis in August 1990 — McCulloch is the only St. Louis County Prosecutor during my time in St. Louis. It is unclear to me at this time if a prosecutor can implement changes like cash bail reform. Must Bell convince the County Council to pass legislation and get Stenger to sign it?

In St. Louis City Hall the incumbent License Collector & Recorder of Deeds candidates defeated primary challenges. As has been my experience for nearly 3 decades in St. Louis — very little will change.  Next week a look at the November ballot. [NOTE: This post originally indicated the incumbent was reelected as Recorder of Deeds — but challenger Michael Butler received just over 50% of the vote in the 3-way race. Incumbent Sharon Carpenter received less than 42%.] 

— Steve Patterson

 

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