05 Mar What is Better Together?
What is Better Together?
“Better Together” is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to bring St. Louis City, St. Louis County and 90 municipalities under one government. They plan to put the measure on the statewide ballot in 2020. This organization is backed by the mega-donor Rex Sinquefield who previously used his finances in other elections and issues within the State of Missouri. Recently, Sinquefield supported eliminating the City earnings tax, which was defeated. As with my ballot review, I attempt to bring this information in a non-partisan way to highlight each position. There is a competing unification plan called ‘A Board of Freeholders’ that the Municipal League is putting together which would allow for a vote of just the citizens of the City and County. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
- St. Louis would move up to #10 in the ranking of America’s largest cities.
- With the increase in population, the crime statistics per capita would decrease.
- Some government processes could be streamlined for cost savings. There are many duplicate services across the region.
- Sales taxes could be distributed more evenly within the region, but there will be some clear losers and winners among the cities.
- A unified government would have greater bargaining power with potential development deals. Currently, developers pit cities against one another for bigger tax incentives. Think the TIF (tax increment financing) deals that bring retail stores to an area, such as Walmart. Once the TIF (public financing) ends, the big box chain moves on to a new location.
- The plan calls for cutting taxes, including the City’s earnings tax and payroll tax after 10 years. If you work in the City, currently 1% of your income goes towards this tax.
- The plan claims a unified public safety and court system would be fairer and would make the entire region safer.
- Individual citizens would receive less representation in their local government.
- The plan was created without a public process so it requires a statewide vote. Anyone outside of the St. Louis area may not have much interest in the outcome of this merger, but they would have the opportunity to vote on it.
- While the plan claims to have specific cost saving numbers, they failed to investigate the financial strength and debts of individual municipalities. This oversight could hinder the plan upon further investigation.
- While the idea of eliminating taxes for some seems like a good idea, the Plan fails to show how the Plan will make up for the loss of the tax revenue. For instance, will police services or street repairs need to be cut? Many cities already have trouble maintaining their current level of service and one would have to trust the savings touted by the Plan would cover the loss of tax revenue.
- Property values could decrease if government services are reduced.
Clearly there are plenty of issues that need to be explained and more properly investigated. The hope is if any form of a unification plan is brought to the voters, there will be substantially more information available to educate us.