Kansas City, Mo. – With an eastern Missouri millionaire contributing a half-million dollars to a campaign to end earnings taxes, Kansas City's city council is the threat to revenues seriously.
Council Finance and Audit chair Deb Hermann says it's not that City Hall is in love with the idea of an earnings tax, but that the tax contributes $200 million a year toward paying the city's bills. She says, "loss of that revenue without something in place ahead of time to replace it would be devastating."
Kansas City, Mo. – A statewide drive to quash the earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis is about to begin in earnest. Initiative petitions will be circulated no later than this weekend to promote a Missouri referendum.
The drive will be well funded, in the words of the Jefferson City attorney who drew up the proposal. A half million dollars has been donated as seed money. It comes from St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield.
Kansas City, Mo. – The Jackson County executive pledges to sue Kansas City government unless the city's Tax Increment Finance Commission is opened to broader representation. Documents supporting a motion for temporary restraining order are written and ready to file for a donnybrook-in-the-making.
Jackson County estimates it has $3.5 Million in revenue diverted to TIFs yet has no vote in spending it. Missouri law requires an 11 member TIF commission to move a project. Kansas City's has six, appointed by the mayor.
Topeka, KS – The Kansas Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is running out of cash. The fund may start drawing loans from the federal government as soon as next month to keep paying benefits.
The fund pays for unemployment benefits in Kansas. High unemployment rates have meant millions in payments and that has drained the fund over the last year. There is currently around $60 million available to pay unemployment benefits. at the beginning of last year, the fund held more than $500 million.
Topeka, Kan. – There are now two Democrats and two Republicans running for Kansas Secretary of State. The most recent to announce are already serving in state government.
Democratic State Senator Chris Steineger of Kansas City, Kansas said today he intends to file as an official candidate next week. He appointed a treasurer this week, allowing him to raise funds. Kansas Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs chose a treasurer last fall and says he expects to file in coming months.
Jefferson City, Mo. – Republican leaders in the Missouri House and Senate returned to their party's traditional themes, after talking up ethics and the economy on the legislature's opening day last week.
Led by Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, GOP leaders pledged first and foremost not to raise taxes this year.
"Taking more money from Missouri families is not a sensible solution to fix whatever budget problems we face today," said Kinder.
Topeka, Kan. – Kansas lawmakers from both parties have registered expected reactions to the governor's proposals to hike sales taxes and cigarette taxes. Now many are conceding there is a need for tax increases of some kind.
Kansas City, Kan. – When the Kansas governor gives his State of the State address this evening he will outline proposals to balance the budget with a shortfall nearing $400 million in the next fiscal year. Tobacco taxes are expected to be on the agenda.
Governor Mark Parkinson has already said he would ask lawmakers to raise the tax, now at 79 cents a pack. The national average is a dollar 34. Aides will not suggest the governor's exact proposal.
Kansas City – Springfield Representative Sara Lampe introduced highway-naming legislation today in an ongoing effort to counter the publicity a regional Nazi group has received for cleaning up the highway.
Representative Lampe introduced House Bill 1668 today in Jefferson City. The bill has 76 cosigners from both parties, and will name a stretch of Highway 160 after Jewish historian and Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal.
Jefferson City, Mo. – If you pay personal income tax in Missouri chances are you're in the top tax bracket. It takes only $9000 in taxable income a year to reach the state's top tier. State lawmakers set the tax brackets back in 1931 and they haven't changed since. Now some say Missouri's tax system is due for an update; both to address the basic issue of fairness and a growing budget hole in Jefferson City.
Kansas City, Mo. – If you live or work in Kansas City, Missouri a 1% earnings tax takes a bite out of your paycheck. The tax has been around for over forty years. But a petition will soon begin circulating around the state, to bring the "e-tax" before all Missouri voters, and possibility outlaw Kansas City, and St. Louis from collecting that type of tax.
Kansas City, MO – A city council committee deferred to civil rights leaders yesterday, and scrapped Mayor Funkhouser's plan to create a citizens' oversight committee to look into dress code discrimination and other violations of the public accommodations ordinance.
The man who lost to Funkhouser in the last election, Alvin Brooks, led a delegation whose size was shrunk by the snowy weather.
Brooks said he represented a sizable group of civil rights, community and religious leaders, whom he named as he enumerated their organizations.
Lawrence, KS – Two Kansas state senators hope to create a "rainy day" fund to help with future budget problems. Topeka Democrat Laura Kelly and Leawood Republican John Vratil unveiled a proposal that would amend the state's Constitution. Vratil says the change would require the state to put money aside during good economic times and essentially save it for a rainy day.
Topeka, KS – Kansans settled into the old ways of filing tax returns are being given a sobering caveat . Budget woes have caught up with the state revenue department and obvious signs are near at hand.
Jefferson City, MO – State and local officials have unveiled redevelopment plans for the old Missouri State Prison in Jefferson City.
Plans for the 140-acre site include government buildings, privately-owned residential and retail space, and preserving much of the historical prison facility. Kelvin Simmons heads Governor Nixon's Office of Administration:
"We'll continue to try to do the environmental, do the clean-up, get the infrastructure in place, and then the next thing is try to entice private developers."
Leavenworth, KS. – The Leavenworth City Commission was out of line when it ousted the mayor earlier this year. The opinion has no power of law, but it does come from the Kansas Attorney General.
Mayor Shay Baker was taken out of her role as mayor last September but stayed on as elected member of the city commission. She was removed from office after siding with a convicted drug dealer who asked leniency from a judge. Her letter of recommendation was on city stationary and included a mayor's business card.
Jefferson City, MO – The way is clear to collect signatures on initiative petitions to eliminate or phase out earnings taxes in Kansas City and St. Louis. Those taxes are budgeted to bring nearly $200 million to Kansas City next year.
Gardner, KS – A Kansas group opposed to a huge rail hub in Johnson County calls issuance of a federal permit,"arbitrary" and "capricious," and threatens a lawsuit to block it. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved construction for the 400 acre project.
The permit will allow one of the largest economic development ventures in the Kansas City area. Developer BNSF Railway plans to build on the 400 acre site off Interstate 35 near Gardner.
Kansas City, MO – Federal and state law exempt combat pay from income taxes, but nobody at City Hall had ever thought of it until Jim Kissinger, a northland resident, suggested it to Mayor Funkhouser and Councilman Russ Johnson.
Kissinger has a son-in-law, Ryan Paulson, who is serving in Afghanistan with the Missouri National Guard. Funkhouser put together an ordinance, and it became of the quickest measures to pass in recent memory.
Kansas City, MO – The idea has been around for several years - make the below-grade sections of I-670 between Wyandotte and Oak disappear by capping the freeway with a big deck more than a third of a mile long.
It recently gained momentum when MoDOT said four bridges over 670 in the area would have to be replaced within the next ten to fifteen years. Why not, said some planners, build the deck in conjunction with the bridges.
Jefferson City, MO – A group opposing abortion and a type of stem cell research they consider to be human cloning has filed a federal lawsuit against Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and State Auditor Susan Montee.
Missouri Roundtable for Life accuses Carnahan of using language in their ballot questions designed to prejudice voters against their initiatives, and accuses Montee of drafting financial impact statements that are also designed to have a negative impact.
Kansas lawmakers are starting the years-long task of redrawing the lines for both national and state political offices. An advisory group began meeting this week in Topeka to look at the redistricting process.
Kansas City, MO – Violation of the Kansas City, Missouri dress code enforcement and public accommodations ordinances now become punishable with a license suspension. The council made that decision Thursday and gave the department of Regulated Industries the power to act on it.
Jefferson City, MO – Missouri lawmakers are being urged to provide moral support, as well as funding, to the state's small business interests during the upcoming legislative session.
Mary Davis is president and CEO of Missouri Enterprise, a non-profit group that advocates for small business interests. She asked a House committee Wednesday to publicly commit to supporting the state's small and mid-level manufacturers: