Nixon signs bill that could place Arch tax up for vote
Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation laying the groundwork for a vote on a sales tax increase to fund, among other things, improvements around the St. Louis Arch.
The Democratic governor approved state Rep. Todd Richardson’s bill on Wednesday. It will permit the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the county councils in St. Louis County and St. Charles County to put a 3/16th of 1 percent sales tax increase on the ballot. About 60 percent of the proceeds would go to the Great Rivers Greenway, while 40 percent would go to local parks.
Funds to Great Rivers Greenway would be used for “enhancements” on the Arch grounds and developing trails throughout the region. To go into effect, at least two of the three voting jurisdictions would have to approve the proposal.
Since the bill is effective on August 28, the ballot measures to approve the tax most likely won’t go before voters until next year.
Boosters of the proposal say the tax increase could go a long way toward improving the aesthetics around an iconic landmark in the St. Louis metro area. St. Louis County officials are also bullish about an additional source of revenue to fund its parks system, which was at the center of an intense budget fight last year. Both St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and some members of the St. Louis County Council predicted the tax increase could bring in an additional $6 million for the far-flung parks system.
But critics, including St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, have questioned the wisdom of using local sales taxes to pay for improvements on federal land.
Richardson's bill was one of nearly two dozen pieces of legislation that Nixon signed today. Included was a bill preventing employees from filing lawsuits against coworkers when suffering an injury, as well two omnibus bills dealing with transportation.
Budget discussions loom in St. Louis County
Meanwhile, Dooley told reporters on Tuesday that the budget process for next year is expected to start later this month. After reaching a concord after the particularly controversial budgetary process last year, Dooley pledged to start discussions earlier this year.
Dooley said that his staff was “still reviewing the numbers and crunching the numbers” for next year’s budget. He added he wouldn't add any "hints" on what to expect just yet.
“This is our seventh month and at the end of this month, we’re going to start that process,” said Dooley, adding that there will be meetings soon with the St. Louis County Council. “It’s just beginning to start, so we’re going to move forward.”
Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, said she was “cautiously optimistic” that the budget process will be better this year. Dooley said he’s “always hopeful” that revenues will increase for the county.
St. Louis County’s new fiscal year begins on January 1.“Cuts have been made over the last several years,” Wasinger said. “Whether or not more will have to made, I think that’ll depend on what the final numbers are. … I think the economy is still in peril. And people are looking for work. And it’s not going to be easy.”