Op-Ed by David Stokes About the St. Louis Earnings Tax in the Post-Dispatch Yesterday
Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an op-ed that I wrote about the upcoming vote on the earnings tax in St. Louis. Check it out.
On the opposite side, the Sierra Club held a rally yesterday in support of the earnings tax. It is not surprising to see people focus on the one or two issues that are important to them rather than trying to see the big picture and the long-term benefits (and costs) of a major change. People of all political persuasions do it regularly. But, if I may (and given that this is our blog, I think that I may) I’d like to respond briefly to the points raised in this sentence:
Chapter Director John Hickey said the Sierra Club believes recycling programs, parks upkeep, and energy-efficient building upgrades will be among the first services to be cut should the city lose the roughly $140 million a year from the 1 percent income tax.
- Recycling, and trash in general, is at the top of the list of government functions that should be funded entirely by user fees, not general revenue. The city is already moving in this direction. Beyond that, trash services are a ripe opportunity for privatization.
- Parks already have a dedicated sales tax in the city, a dedicated property tax for museums and the zoo in the city and county, and a dedicated property tax for recreation purposes in the city. These could well need to be raised to offset portions of the earnings tax elimination. Of all the things to worry about funding without an earnings tax, parks — with plenty of other dedicated revenue sources — should be very low on that list. If the city privatized the water division, for example, the substantial property it owns in the county (one treatment plant and one reservoir) would move onto the tax rolls, generating revenue that would further benefit the zoo-museum district.
- Energy-efficient building upgrades make sense with or without the earnings tax, if they pay for themselves over the long run.