We were hopeful but cautious concerning the fate of Prop B.
It was needed, and supporters made a solid case. But voters are never eager to raise taxes, nor should they be.
We weren’t surprised that it passed, but were surprised that more than 77 percent of Joplin voters endorsed the half-cent sales tax increase to solve pension issues for the city’s public safety workers. You don’t get that kind of consensus on much these days, and certainly not when it comes to tax increases.
What lessons can we take away?
• First, tax increases should come with an expiration date. In this case, the sales tax increase ends in 12 years, or sooner if the funded level of the pension reaches 120 percent before then. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case with taxes. We see a lot of political entities stretching to keep tax increases alive past the point of the original commitment and long after promised public buildings, for example, have been paid off. Too often, these entities are reluctant to let go of the money, and that undermines their ability to raise taxes when they need it. The real test will come in 12 years, if the city can walk away from the $6 million the tax increase is projected to bring in.
• Second, it is best to bring everyone into the conversation at the beginning, which is what the city did in this case by including police officers, firefighters and others as it tried to come up with options that worked for the taxpayers and also addressed retention and recruitment challenges with those departments.
• Third, it took an aggressive campaign to make this happen. Police officers and firefighters went door to door. A citizens committee took the case to clubs and organizations. Raising taxes should be a hard push, but not impossible.
• The final takeaway: Voters are willing to support tax increases — with conditions — for a worthwhile cause.
Well done, Joplin ... well done by the city, and well done by the voters.