The City Council of Kansas City is currently debating its 2020–2021 budget. Mayor Quinton Lucas had suggested some worthwhile cuts but abandoned them pretty quickly. That was before the full weight of the coronavirus became evident. Now it is time for those cuts—and a whole host of other cuts—to be considered again.
Goldman Sachs predicts the United States gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink by a quarter. Thousands of people in the Kansas City region are losing their jobs, and the mayor just issued a shelter-in-place order. City revenue is about to plummet. We can safely say that revenues from the earnings tax and sales taxes will decline significantly.
Who knows what sort of bailout will be available to cities, if any. But this is not a time to be funding a film office whose function is to subsidize the likes of Netflix. Kansas City has been a high tax city for years. And not satisfied with spending those revenues, we have continued to increase our public debt. This may be a time of reckoning.
A city council that convenes online and votes virtually out of concern for a global pandemic must demonstrate that it truly understands the difference between basic, necessary services and those things that are merely nice to have. Is Visit KC, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, necessary in the next few months? Is the streetcar? Is the Economic Development Corporation (EDCKC) a vital need in the next quarter? The city council should act as they have asked Kansas City residents to act, supporting only “essential services.” Everything else, for now, needs to be set aside.