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Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis tax payers get to vote on funding a new NFL stadium?

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

The subject of today’s poll may ultimately be decided by a court, from April:

The public body that owns and operates the Edward Jones Dome filed suit Friday against the city of St. Louis. They are trying to avoid a public vote on the use of taxpayer money for a new downtown football stadium. The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority would ultimately be responsible for building the proposed stadium on the riverfront. The RSA is suing St. Louis city claiming the city ordinance requiring a citywide vote before public funds are spent on a stadium is, “Overly broad, vague and ambiguous.” The city says the ordinance is legal. (Fox 2)

The lawsuit makes sense, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority wants legal clarity:

At the center of the St. Louis lawsuit is a 2002 city ordinance that says a vote is required to decide whether public funds can be used to help pay for a sports venue. (LA Times)

Then last month a third of the aldermen weighed in:

Nine of the city’s 28 aldermen are calling for a public vote on the use of city tax dollars for a new riverfront football stadium — regardless of the outcome of a lawsuit seeking to escape just such an election.

On Friday, Alderman Scott Ogilvie sent a letter signed by him and eight colleagues asking the public board of the Edward Jones Dome to drop its lawsuit against the city and “embrace a conversation with St. Louisans” about the funding of a $985 million downtown arena. (Post-Dispatch)

Ordinance 65609/66509 called for a public referendum, becoming Chapter 3.91 Professional Sports Facility of the city code after approval by voters. City election results aren’t available online before 2005 so I asked Election director Gary Stoff about the results:

“Proposition S appeared on the Nov. 5, 2002 ballot.  The results were 48,872 (55.37%) in favor of the proposition and 34,552 (44.63%) opposed.”

The Post-Dispatch in January:

St. Louis residents passed the ordinance in 2002 by nearly 10 percentage points, 55 percent to 45 percent. St. Louis County voters approved a similar measure in 2004 by even more, 72 percent to 28 percent. (Post-Dispatch)

So there you have it. Today’s poll question asks “Should St. Louis tax payers get to vote on funding a new NFL stadium?” The poll is in the right sidebar (desktop layout) and will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson



St. Louis’ Earnings Tax

April 15, 2015 Taxes 11 Comments

In order to pay for collective services governments must tax citizens to get the money. Of course, we don’t all directly use all the services. For example, I don’t have kids yet I’ve helped fund schools. I don’t directly use this service, but I value what it does for the community I live in. So we all live here and we pool our money to buy shared services. If we were to take away a big chunk of that pooled money, by eliminating the 1% earnings tax, then we’d need to reduce services or tax ourselves some other way — or a combination of both.

The wealthiest among us seek to do locally what they’ve done nationally — reduce their tax burden. This shifts the burden to the rest of us — the lower we are on the economic scale the more we get squeezed.

Say you’re a partner in a downtown law firm who lives in West St. Louis County, with a base salary of $250,000/yr — this means you pay $2,500 to the City of St. Louis. But, if the earnings tax was replaced by higher sales and/or property taxes you’d still save money every year. You’d threaten to move the firm to Clayton unless it received huge concessions — offsetting the increased property taxes. Business lunches would cost a bit more with higher sales taxes but you could always scale back tips — besides that’s all deductible businesses expenses. Personal purchases are made in the county or online.  This individual now saves lots of money but begins to complain about potholes on the way into his office, smug in his decision to live outside the city.

I’m all for evaluating our revenue and expenses — doing so it wise — but we must be realistic about new revenues replacing old ones. Look at Kansas as an example:

In short, it’s easy to determine that by far the biggest single contributing factor to Kansas’ fiscal problems today are the income tax cuts — not bogeyman excuses cooked up by Brownback or any of his boosters. (No kidding: Facts show Brownback’s tax cuts caused Kansas’ revenue plunge)

Fantasy: cut the tax rate expecting the economy to boom as a result so total revenue would remain the same. Reality: cut tax rates make the wealthy even richer, economy stalls because less money is being circulated. Services are cut, further dampening the economy. Education & infrastructure funding are cut, making the state less and less attractive except to anti-tax types.

The results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: St. Louis’ 1% earnings tax… (PICK UP TO TWO)

  1. revenue is too critical to eliminate 18 [34.62%]
  2. should be left unchanged 11 [21.15%]
  3. should be matched by an earnings tax in surrounding counties 8 [15.38%]
  4. should be replaced by another tax 7 [13.46%]
  5. should be reduced incrementally over the next 10-25 years 4 [7.69%]
  6. should be eliminated at once 3 [5.77%]
  7. should be increased 1 [1.92%]
  8. should be reduced, but not eliminated 0 [0%]
  9. unsure/no opinion 0 [0%]

Of course, one municipality in a highly-balkanized region is different than a state.  Still, the idea of slashing taxes to create a wave a new revenue from newfound influx of people and jobs is unfounded — especially with obligatory cuts in services.

Instead of eliminating St. Louis’ earnings tax we need to add an earnings tax to other counties in the region — though perhaps not 1%.  This would even up the playing field — reducing moves from one political jurisdiction to another. Use the revenue to make the entire region attractive to outsiders so we get real growth.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: St. Louis’ Earnings Taxes…

Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar
Please vote in the poll, located in the right sidebar

Our federal, state, and for some of us, St. Louis City, tax returns must be postmarked no later than Wednesday. For today’s poll I thought Id ask about the St. Louis earnings tax. If you live OR work in the city you must pay 1%. Live in another state and play baseball, hockey, or football for opposing teams that play the Cardinals. Blues, Rams? You must pay 1% of the income earned in St. Louis.

Taxes are never popular — few are as controversial as our local earnings tax. So take the poll in the right sidebar — you can pick one or two answers — you can provide your own if you don’t like the choices offered.

— Steve Patterson






Three-Day Weekend: Fuel Taxes and Tolls

We did a 3-day weekend trip to Oklahoma City last weekend so my husband could meet more of my family — including two in from Northern California. For cost reasons we decided to drive rather than fly. We kept detailed records on costs — fuel and tolls. We drove I-44 the entire way — in Oklahoma it is a toll road.  I think the results will make for an interesting conversation about fuel taxes and tolls.

Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. 
Those of us not using a prepaid PIKEPASS had to stop at toll plazas to pay in cash. Those using PIKEPASS save time and 5%. Those with a PIKEPASS can also use it in Northern Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and Kansas.

Our roundtrip was 1,129 miles (585 were in Missouri, 544 in Oklahoma) — 51.8% vs 48.2%. We used 31.861 gallons of gasoline — 69.54% of which was purchased in Missouri.  Our 2007 Honda Civic, with over 100k miles, averaged over 35mpg on mostly highway miles, the government rating on our vehicle is 36mpg highway. We stayed a traveled a few MPH over the posted speed limit of 70 un Missouri and 75 in Oklahoma.

Our total cost for fuel & tolls was $21.48, but even though only 48.2% of our miles were in Oklahoma that state received 82.17% of our money, Missouri the remaining 17.83%.   In total state fuel taxes & fees we paid $3.83 to Missouri, $1.65 to Oklahoma. We paid Oklahoma a total of $16 in tolls  — $4 per toll plaza stop. Missouri collects 17.3¢/gal in fuel taxes & fees, Oklahoma a little less at 17¢/gal.  Oklahoma has ten toll highways thoughout the state!

If Missouri is unwilling to increase our fuel taxes to fund our infrastructure needs then we should consider tolls. This has allowed Oklahoma to fund roads & bridges while keeping fuel taxes among the lowest in the country. Oklahoma gets visitors passing through their state to pay for the privilege. Of course, if you ask Oklahomans about tolls they’ll say they don’t like them.

Critics of fuel taxes say increasing efficiency of vehicles causes shortfalls in state revenues, electric vehicles like a Tesla don’t pay any fuel taxes. Tolls are the great equalizer though — a Tesla would’ve paid $16 in tolls just like we did.

— Steve Patterson


Tax Scams Make Sensational News But Media Fails To Mention Adjusting Withholding To Reduce/Eliminate Refund

March 13, 2015 Crime, Economy, Featured, Media, Taxes Comments Off on Tax Scams Make Sensational News But Media Fails To Mention Adjusting Withholding To Reduce/Eliminate Refund
I’ve circled the three places on KMOV’s home page where “Tax Cheats” stories appeared

When we watch television (vs Netflix, etc) it’s usually CBS — KMOV 4.1 here — unfortunately their promos on tax scams/cheats seem nonstop. Wednesday morning I checked local news sources for similar reports. KMOV had 3 mentions on their homepage, the others didn’t — but many had stories from this month:

These stories are designed to frighten you into worrying about someone steeling your refund — you go to file and someone else has already filed a return for you — taking your refund.  Meanwhile, commercials for auto dealers talk about using your refund as a down payment — some will even double it.  So a $3,000 refund becomes a $6,000 down payment.

Many get excited by a big refund — the bigger the better. The ideal, however, is little or no refund. Why? If you get a huge refund it means you’ve lent the federal & state governments your money interest-free.  A $7800 refund means you could’ve had another $15 in your pocket every week — $65/month.  I know some people use their refund as a savings plan, if so, put that amount into a savings plan every pay period rather than letting Uncle Sam hold it. In savings it’ll earn interest and should an emergency arise  — like car trouble — you can access your money.

You want your withholding set so you get little to nothing back at tax time. You can use the IRS’s Withholding Calculator to determine how your W-4 should be completed.

If you get a big annual tax refund you are leaving yourself vulnerable to fraud.

— Steve Patterson