KANSAS CITY, KAN—Opponents of the Kansas City, Missouri, earnings tax say that plenty of other cities get along fine without it. One metro city that doesn't have an earnings tax says that yes, they are getting along without it. But they also say that they sure wish that it was an option.
On Tuesday, Kansas City, Missouri, voters overwhelmingly approved the continuation of the city's earnings tax, which funds police, fire and trash service, among other things.
Like KCMO, Kansas City, Kansas, has a large percentage of people who work in town and live somewhere else. But under Kansas state law, they aren't even allowed to consider an earnings tax.
"Kansas statute does not allow cities in Kansas to do that," said Mike Taylor of the Unified Government. He says that the UG has tried to get the state to change the law to allow an earnings tax for the past 20 years.
"The state keeps taking away millions and millions of dollars that is supposed to go to cities, and we have to live with that," said Taylor.
KCK attracts a lot of visitors and employees on a daily basis, with destinations like the Kansas Speedway, T-Bones Baseball, Sporting Kansas City soccer and retail stores like Legends, Cabellas and Nebraska Furniture Mart.
Taylor says that the average salary for people who work in Wyandotte County is $43,000, the second-highest in the state. But the average salary for people who actually live in Wyandotte County is much less -- $27,000, one of the lowest in the state.
"So that huge disparity tells us there are a whole lot of folks who come into Wyandotte County, and work every day and make good salaries, and go home to Johnson County and Missouri, wherever, at the end of the day," said Taylor.
So the UG manages to get by without an earnings tax, but that means that the government has to rely heavily on property taxes. Taylor says that Wyandotte County's property taxes aren't the highest in the state, and in fact have been lowered nearly 26 percent over the past ten years. But it is still higher than neighboring Johnson County.
"We've worked hard to reduce the property tax mill levy in Wyandotte County," said Taylor. "Many people still think it's terribly high."