Sales tax initiatives in the City of St. Louis
Date Sales Tax Result
August 1994 0.25% Passed
November 1997 0.25% Passed *

The City of St. Louis forms the core of the Greater St. Louis area. The city currently contracts transit service out to the Bi-State Development Agency d.b.a. Metro which has operated the St. Louis region’s public transportation services since 1963.

1973 – Transportation Sales Tax Act

By June 1973, the public transportation division of Bi-State was in dire financial straits. The agency threatened it would have to shut down bus operations by the end of the month if it did not receive additional funding. The Missouri legislature thus passed the Transportation Sales Tax Act which authorized the governing bodies of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Kansas City to levy a half-cent sales tax for public transportation. The enactment of the sales tax allowed Bi-State to lower fare prices from 40 cents to 25 cents. The legislation was originally to terminate on December 31, 1975, but was extended numerous times until additional legislation removed the sunset provision in 2000. The City of St. Louis has historically appropriated all revenue derived from the sales tax to Metro. (For reference, see ยงยง 94.600 to 94.655 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri)

August 1994 – Proposition M

Operating deficits at Bi-State prompted officials to ask voters for a quarter-cent sales tax to support mass transit and the new MetroLink system. Bi-State had warned that without the measure’s passage, bus service would be cut by 40 percent. Growing civic pride generated by the enormous success of MetroLink’s first year of operation, however, allowed Proposition M to pass handily with greater than 60 percent voting in favor of the measure in both the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Officials promised that one-third of the sales tax proceeds would be used to support current operations while the remaining two-thirds would be used as a local match for federal dollars to greatly expand the new rail based transit system. While new MetroLink extensions were not anticipated to come into service until 2001 at the earliest, officials hoped to begin new commuter rail operations from Pacific to downtown within three years.

November 1997 – Proposition M

Proposition M was a quarter-cent sales tax advertised to aid in the quick expansion of the MetroLink system. Declining support from the State of Missouri and the federal government meant than a greater proportion of the 1994 Proposition M revenue was being used for operations than anticipated. Prior to the vote, top officials from the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and B-State signed a memorandum of understanding saying two-thirds of tax proceeds would be used for expansion of MetroLink. The remaining third would be used of system operation. The measure passed by a narrow margin garnering 50.4 percent of the vote.

Proposition M, however, was tied to the passage of a similar proposition in St. Louis County. That proposition was soundly defeated with 58 percent voting against the measure. Similar to the reasons for Madison County’s rejection of their own Proposition M, a lack of firm plans and uncertainty of how sales tax proceeds would be used were cited as the primary reasons for the ballot measure’s failure. As a result, the sales tax approved by the City of St. Louis has yet to be enacted.

Responding to opponents of the recent Proposition M, East-West Gateway initiated a series of Major Transportation Investment Analysis studies to assess the transportation needs in north, west, and south St. Louis County. Those studies were completed in 2000 and have formed the basis for subsequent corridor level studies such as Metro South and Northside-Southside as well as Metro’s current Moving Transit Forward plan.

The quarter-cent sales tax approved by the City of St. Louis would go in effect should St. Louis County ever pass a similar measure. At attempt to pass a half-cent sales tax failed in November 2008. The county is trying again with Proposition A in April.

Posted by Herbie Markwort

I like to write about transportation.