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Slay says April 2011 election on earnings tax is almost guaranteed

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – Mayor Francis Slay says he expects that city residents will have to decide in April whether to keep St. Louis's one percent earnings tax.

The Secretary of State on Tuesday certified a measure for the November ballot that would require voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to approve their earnings taxes every five years. The measure also includes language that blocks other cities from ever implementing an earnings tax, which Slay said will make efforts to defeat the statewide measure tough.

"Trying to go outstate and convince people that they should not vote against an earnings tax for themselves that they don't have is very, very difficult particularly against a lot of money that's going to be put in supporting this thing," he said, but added that he's confident St. Louis voters would agree to keep the tax and the $140 million in revenue it generates.

The mayor said he has a commitment from Rex Sinquefield that the billionaire libertarian will not push the issue next April if the city does not have replacement revenue in place. The eight-month window is too short for that to be accomplished, Slay said.

"We don't impose new tax structures and fee structures in the city of St. Louis," he said. "Most of these things need voter approvals, lot of them are going to need legislative approval in Jeff City."

Sinquefield bankrolled the effort to get the measure on the November ballot, and has donated millions to Slay in the past. A spokeswoman did not return a phone call to confirm the commitment.

Opponents call the measure unnecessary, saying state law already prohibits other cities from passing earnings taxes.