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IN OUR OPINION Tax for Arch Faces Opposition by huanghengdong

 Journal Editorial

IN OUR OPINION: Tax for Arch faces
Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 12:00 am

A radio talk show host recently wondered on the air whether anyone would oppose a sales tax
increase to help transform the Gateway Arch grounds. Oh, we can think of a few naysayers.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann already proclaimed his opposition. County
Councilman Joe Brazil, R-District 2, said he would not vote to put the tax on the ballot in St.
Charles County. And if it does reach the county's voters, a large percentage likely would cast
their objection.

The tax proposal is contained in a legislative amendment sponsored by state Rep. Anne Zerr, R-
18th District, and approved by the Missouri House. The bill, which was awaiting Senate action,
would authorize St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County to put a sales tax of three-
sixteenths of a cent (0.1875) on their ballots. The tax would be in addition to the one-tenth-cent
sales tax already collected for regional projects administered by the Great Rivers Greenway
District. Seventy percent of the new revenue would go to local and regional parks and trails; 30
percent would help pay for the $553 million project planned by the City-ArchRiver 2015
Foundation to make the Arch grounds more accessible and appealing to visitors.

Zerr, a former Greenway board president from St. Charles, called the proposal a win-win
situation for St. Charles County residents. That's debatable. At the risk of sounding parochial, St.
Charles County officials and voters have a variety of good reasons to reject the tax.

Certainly St. Charles County would benefit from more money for its parks, but county officials
didn't ask for this tax, and the county doesn't need it. The county has done a fine job of creating
and expanding its own park system, funded by a voter-approved use tax paid only by people who
spend more than $2,000 in a year's time on purchases from out-of-state companies.

Ehlmann makes a valid argument in that the Gateway Arch national monument and surrounding
park are the responsibility of the federal government, not local taxpayers. Besides, local residents
contribute through federal taxes. They also help support the Missouri Department of
Transportation, which plans to spend millions to create a lid over Interstate 70 in downtown St.
Louis as part of the effort to make the Arch more accessible to pedestrians.

And St. Charles County voters did agree several years ago — before the economy went sour —
to the current sales tax for Greenway's projects. But the proposed increase, albeit a small amount,
would add to the burden on people struggling to make ends meet when the costs of gasoline,
food, utilities and nearly everything else continue to escalate.
All of which makes Zerr's proposal an iffy proposition, at best, in St. Charles County. Proponents
would need to make a compelling case to convince the county's voters to increase their tax
burden to help pay for a project that is more luxury than necessity, the primary beneficiaries of
which would be the city of St. Louis and its downtown businesses.

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