For those who live or work in Kansas City, paying a 1 percent earnings tax each year is second nature. The tax is paid with annual income taxes, and it is what is required.

For those who live or work in Kansas City, paying a 1 percent earnings tax each year is second nature. The tax is paid with annual income taxes, and it is what is required.

But what if there were no earnings tax?

If voters approve Proposition A, otherwise known as the Missouri Earnings Tax Initiative, it could happen in the not so distant future.

That would be a relief for taxpayers, say supporters of Prop A. It would be devastating for Kansas City and  St. Louis, say opponents.

If Proposition A is approved Nov. 2, it would require voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to vote on whether to keep the earnings tax. Voters would then have to decide every five years on the fate of the earnings tax. If voters ever reject the tax, it would be phased out and could never be reinstated. In addition, approving Proposition A would prohibit any other city government from imposing new earnings taxes on businesses or citizens.

“Local earnings taxes are a third layer of taxes, on top of federal and state income taxes. Under current state law, people who live and work in Kansas City and St. Louis are required to pay a 1 percent earnings tax to the local city government, and those taxes can continue forever without any local vote of the people,” said Brooke Foster, a representative of Let Voters Decide.

“Yes on Proposition A requires local public votes on the existing earnings taxes in St. Louis and Kansas City, so voters there can decide for themselves, in future local elections, whether they want to keep the existing earnings tax in their city or gradually phase it out over a period of 10 years.”

Opponents of Proposition A fear approving the measure will bankrupt both Kansas City and St. Louis.

Pam Whiting, vice-president of communications for the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said passage of Proposition A would eliminate almost 42 percent of Kansas City’s budget, which is about $200 million. This would affect services such as police and fire, snow removal, garbage pickup and street repairs. The amount of money lost from the elimination of the earnings tax, she said, is more than the current budget for the entire police department.

“The Chamber is supporting ‘Say No to A,’ a coalition representing business, labor, and civic organizations, deeply concerned about the impact the loss of the earnings tax would have on the quality of life in both Kansas City and St. Louis,” Whiting said. “St. Louis and Kansas City are the two main economic centers of Missouri. They need to succeed if Missouri is to succeed. Proposition A also will devastate both cities’ ability to provide basic services – fire and police protection, trash collection, street and bridge maintenance.”

A large number of groups, in addition to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, have come out against the measure, including the League of Women Voters, Missouri AFL-CIO and the NAACP among others.

Gov. Jay Nixon also has come out against Proposition A.

“Prop A would devastate the city’s budget and does not include any proposal as to how to replace the revenue,” Whiting said.

“The burden of providing basic services and regional amenities like the Kansas City Zoo and the Liberty Memorial, would fall on Kansas City, Mo., residents alone. Currently, about 40 percent of e-tax revenues come from employees who work in the city but live elsewhere.”

Foster said Proposition A “protects the rights and pocketbooks of working families and small businesses.”

“It’s common knowledge that the local earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City discourages people and businesses from locating within the city limits,” Foster said. “Voting yes gives voters in Kansas City and St. Louis the right to vote on their local earnings tax in future local elections. If voters in St. Louis or Kansas City decide to phase out the local earnings tax in their city, it would likely have a positive effect on the local economy, by encouraging more people and businesses to locate within the city limits.”

Rex Sinquefield, a politically active businessman in Missouri, is a backer of Proposition A and has donated more than $7 million to the campaign, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission.