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St. Louis mayor calls earnings taxes ‘contributions’ in forming revenue review

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(The Center Square) – St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones created a council on Monday to examine the city’s revenue and 1% earnings tax, which she called “contributions” from taxpayers.

The announcement came days after the city announced a settlement with six plaintiffs who won a lawsuit and an appeals court decision over paying the earnings tax while working remotely during the pandemic. The city agreed to refund the earnings tax paid by remote workers in 2020, 2021 and 2022, which are estimated to be approximately $25 million.

“I’m grateful to the residents of St. Louis and our region who contribute to the earnings tax,” Jones said in prepared remarks. “Your contribution to the City of St. Louis, the cultural and business hub of our region, is something to be proud of. We want you to continue that contribution and we want to protect that contribution today and well into the future.”

The 12-member council will have a member representing the mayor, the comptroller, the collector of revenue, the treasurer, the board of aldermen, and the budget division. The remaining members will be a community representative, a financial institution located in the city, a member representing the city’s financial advisor, a member from the city’s community development corporation, a member from the business community located in the city and a member representing the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

However, Collector of Revenue Gregory Daly said input is welcome from outside the city.

“We’re listening to individuals throughout the state of Missouri and I think this is a regional issue,” Daly said. “This is not just a City of St. Louis issue. It’s a regional issue and I think this commission is going to be able to entertain some of the concerns that people have throughout the state of Missouri.”

A Missouri House special committee on taxation made several recommendations regarding the earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis during this year’s legislative session. It included House Bill 1516, sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis, to modify the earnings tax on remote workers. It passed 100-47 in the House and died in the Senate due to multiple delays and filibusters.

“Thanks to the work of my administration and our state lobbyists, we defeated legislation at the state level that would have significantly reduced or eliminated our city’s earnings tax,” Jones said on Monday and in previous statements.

Murphy’s committee supported the lawsuit and exempting taxpayers from the earnings tax if their income is less than 150% of federal poverty guidelines. It also recommended exempting from the earnings tax new residents moving into St. Louis and Kansas City. It recommended phasing out the earnings tax and creating “Earnings Tax Opportunity Zones” to incentivize businesses to locate in the city and retain corporations.

Jones said none of the recommendations will be considered.

“They didn’t have any findings other than to try to tell us what to do,” Jones said.

In a rematch from 2021, Jones will face Alderwoman Cara Spencer in the Democratic primary next March.

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