KHI News Service

KCMO voters reject biomed tax proposal

By Mike Sherry | November 06, 2013

A DNA sequence analyzer served as the backdrop for Dr. Michael Artman, chairman of the pediatrics department at Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. Artman would play a role in the proposed Jackson County Institute for Translational Medicine.

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Voters here on Tuesday shellacked a proposed half-cent, county-wide sales tax for biomedical research.

According to unofficial returns, the tax plan failed with 84 percent of the electorate voting against the proposed levy. More than 76,000 ballots were cast.

Backers of the so-called “translational science” tax said the proposed 20-year levy would have raised about $800 million to help local researchers take cutting-edge cures from the laboratory to the patient.

They unveiled the plan in August and urged Jackson County legislators to move quickly to put the proposal on the November ballot.

Proponents said the local dollars would be important supplements to the federal research grants pulled into the region. They also argued the investment of tax dollars would spur economic activity amounting to about $61.3 million annually within a decade.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Saint Luke’s Health System would have split most of the proceeds, with some earmarked for economic development initiatives tied to the proposed Translational Medicine Institute of Jackson County.

The Hall Family Foundation, established by the family that started and built Hallmark Cards Inc., had pledged $75 million to construct a building for the institute, if the tax passed.

Critics of the plan argued that sales taxes disproportionately fall on lower-income residents.

Opponents also said that a local sales tax was an inappropriate financing mechanism for the venture, arguing instead that such levies were meant for basic priorities such as roads.

According to The Kansas City Star, Russ Welsh, past chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, told supporters Tuesday evening that “it was an effort very much worth fighting.”

One opponent simply said, “I’m thrilled.”

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