City of St. Louis Election Round-up and the Future of Proposition E and the Earnings Tax

Proposition E, the measure asking City of St. Louis residents whether they would like to keep the current 1% earnings tax in place dominated press coverage and the conversation leading to yesterday's election. The drama didn't last long, as PropE passed (the earnings tax retained) by a margin of nearly 30,000 votes, 87.55-12.45%.

Elsewhere, the lone Republican on the Board of Aldermen was not retained, Villa replaced Villa and Independent Scott Ogilvie won the 24th Ward contest over Tom Bauer, a former alderman. Local politics changes slowly, but Ogilvie's victory seems to show that with hard work and a favorable ward political landscape, a progressive candidate can win in the city. Only time will tell if this becomes a trend.

But back to PropE. The YES vote delays the issue for five years. If the measure fails to pass in 2016, the tax would be phased out over a 10-year period. The tax generates roughly $140M in St. Louis. This is often reported as 1/3 of the city's revenue. Technically, it provides 30% of the city's General Revenue Fund, the segment of the budget which pays for the most city services. The GRF is a little less than one half of the city's total annual budget.

What's interesting is the that the NO vote supporters of PropE stayed quiet this election cycle and the pro-PropE crowd launched an aggressive YES campaign that raised approximately $650,000 in short order. There were speeches, signs, GOTV efforts and some powder was still kept dry, to the tune of $200,000.

In fact a report funded by Mr. Sinquefield, offering a blueprint as to how the City may seek to replace the earnings tax, if it is not retained in the future was released today. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and likely others were given advance copies with the requirement that it not be revealed until after the Tuesday vote. The report can be read in the document library.

So what happens in five years? With PropE passing with 88% support and turnout at 20%, it would appear that the measure would be safe, despite the doom and gloom and Tea Party anti-tax fears that led some to believe the measure may fail this time. But now it appears that the one-sided campaign may come from the other side next time. Richard Callow, the campaign manager for the effort is quoted in the Post-Dispatch as saying, "I don't think there's going to be another campaign on this earnings tax". And one can safely bet that Sinquefield's money won't stay on the sideline again.

If the effort this cycle was simply to give the city five years to plan for the 10-year demise of the tax, perhaps the purpose was served. However, it seems to be an awkward position to convince thousands of votes to change their vote the round. All of this should make for an interesting local political scene for the next few years.

Proposition E
Yes   34,190    87.55%
No       4,864   12.45%

Aldermanic president
Lewis E. Reed (Dem)    28,576     81.66%
Maxine Johnson (Gre)     6,416     18.34%

Alderman Ward 4
Samuel Moore (Dem)                         744     81.67%
Crystal Dionne Washington (Gre)     167     18.33%

Alderman Ward 10
Joseph "Joe" Vollmer (Dem)     1,294     69.42%
Jesse Irwin (Rep)                           570     30.58%

Alderman Ward 11
Thomas Albert Villa (Dem)     1,017     85.97%
Deborah Fisher (Rep)                166     14.03%

Alderman Ward 12
Larry Arnowitz (Dem)     1,330     50.92%
Fred Heitert (Rep)          1,282     49.08%

Alderman Ward 20
Craig Schmid (Dem)                387     61.14%
James Eldon McNeely (Gre)     48     7.58%
David A. Gaither (Ind)              198     31.28%

Alderman Ward 22
Jeffrey L. Boyd (Dem)     838     91.48%
Don Devivo (Gre)               78       8.52%

Alderman Ward 24
Tom Bauer (Dem)        826     37.94%
Scott Ogilvie (Ind)     1,351     62.06%

Trustee Sub-district 2 – St. Louis Community College
Patrick J. Burke (Non)                         2,029     13.57%
Denise R. Chachere (Non)                 2,087     13.96%
Wendy R. Watson-Robinson (Non)       970        6.49%
Hattie R. Jackson (Non)                      9,865      65.98%