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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.
Missouri voters likely will get their chance to vote in November on an initiative to put limits on state earnings taxes, despite an attempt to block it in court.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem on Monday refused to strike the measure from the ballot after a Kansas City lawsuit claimed it violated the state constitution and should be removed. In a two-page ruling, Beetem rejected several claims while putting off other allegations raised by the lawsuit until after the November election -- if voters approve the initiative.
The earnings tax measure would require voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to approve the two cities' existing earnings taxes every five years. It would also bar other Missouri cities from imposing their own earnings tax. Election authorities concluded in August that the measure qualified for the ballot.
The earnings taxes are levied on the incomes of people who live or work in the cities and the businesses that are located there.
A lawsuit filed by acting Kansas City manager Troy Schulte and Pat Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO and a firefighter, claimed the measure included too many topics and improperly sought to budget money. The suit also challenged the costs for holding municipal elections and asserted the measure would improperly amend the city's charter.
Kansas City Attorney Galen Beaufort did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday. During a court hearing Friday in Jefferson City, Beaufort said the earnings tax measure "very cleverly" spliced the separate subjects of banning some cities from enacting earnings taxes and requiring others to regularly renew their existing taxes.
Marc Ellinger, an attorney who represented the group backing the earnings tax measure, said he was pleased by the ruling and said supporters were working to educate voters.
"The court confirmed that our initiative petition conforms to the constitution and will be on the ballot in November," Ellinger said.
Supporters of the ballot measure contend voters should be allowed to decide whether to continue existing earnings taxes. But critics warn that eliminating those cities' earning taxes could cause significant budget trouble and gut vital services such as police and fire protection.
Absentee ballots for the November election become available Tuesday.