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Missouri Senate won't try to kill St. Louis, KC earnings tax

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Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard

In this Feb. 4, 2016 file photo, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard speaks at an annual press association event at the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City, Mo., as House Speaker Todd Richardson looks on. (Julie Smith/News Tribune via AP)

JEFFERSON CITY • The leader of the Missouri Senate slammed the door Wednesday on any legislative attempt this spring to kill the 1 percent earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City.

A day after residents in both cities overwhelmingly voted to keep taxing their incomes for another five years, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said he wasn’t planning on pursuing any of the bills filed in the House and Senate this year that seek to end the tax.

“I’m not of a mind to move something at this time,” the Joplin Republican told the Post-Dispatch.

The tax, levied on earned income of residents and anyone who works in the city, had been the target of retired investor Rex Sinquefield, who contributed $2 million of his fortune to try and phase out the tax.

It also was the subject of at least six bills pending in the House and Senate seeking to end the tax. Sponsors including Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, a Republican candidate for attorney general, had argued that the tax stymied development in St. Louis.

Richard didn’t rule out revisiting attempts to end the tax in the coming years, but said it wouldn’t be on the table this spring heading into the final month of the legislative session.

He said he planned to discuss the long-term prospects of the tax with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

“Over time, does it do damage to the city as far as growth? There’s going to have to be some kind of decision. We’re not going to wait another five years,” Richard said.

Richard said the federal government’s decision to select a site in north St. Louis as the next home of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which will keep 3,100 jobs in the city, could serve as an opening to investigate other ways of bringing in revenue to fund city services.

The tax currently generates about $160 million annually, representing an estimated one-third of the city’s general revenue.

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