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First vote on earnings tax will be on November ballot

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – A measure which could lead to the elimination of earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City will be on the November ballot.

The measure was one of two certified Tuesday by the Missouri Secretary of State. If it's approved in November, voters in St. Louis and Kansas City would decide in November 2011 whether or not to keep their city's earnings tax, which make up a sizable portion of the budget in each city. The measure also prevents other cities from implementing an earnings tax in the future.

It's only fair that residents are allowed to vote on their level of taxation, said Marc Ellinger, a spokesman for supporters.

"And outside of Kansas City and St. Louis, it's a level of protection," he said. "People all around the state do not want to pay an additional income tax and this protects them from that."

Supporters received all but $200 of their financing from St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield, who has sunk large sums of money into pushing libertarian policies. Opponents like Richard Sheets, the deputy director of the Missouri Municipal League, said the measure is one person trying to intrude on the right of cities to govern themselves.

"Our fear is not just the earnings tax, they could do this on other municipal issues that are focused on just one city, and I think that's a real danger," he said. Other opponents are worried about the financial impacts.

Voters in November will also decide whether to limit dog breeders to 50 animals and set requirements for the care those breeders must provide. Barbara Schmitz the spokeswoman for Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, said the measure is meant to strip Missouri of its title as "puppy mill capital" of the country.

"This measure has no impact on agriculture," she said. "It is certainly not aimed at farmers. I'm a farmer's daughter and I grew up in a farming community, and my family, as well as a number of farmers that I know, are in support of this measure."

Opponents like Karen Strange of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners disagreed. Strange said the requirements are unreasonable and could put some reputable breeders out of business.

"And we are voicing concerns about if the government starts restricting the number of animals a dog breeder may have, how long is it going to be before they start restricting everything else, including cattle, hog, poultry production and everything detailed in our lives," she said.

Opponents have called the language that will appear on the ballot deceptive and have challenged it in court.

Changes to the state's judicial selection process and a ban on real estate transfer taxes did not get enough signatures.