Ehlmann: For Lambert Airport, there should be no taxation without representation | Other Reviews

By Steve Ehlman

A recent Post-Dispatch editorial “Committee report affirms the need to boost the St. Louis area. The real goal is control,” suggested that the goal of Republicans on the state Senate Interim Committee on Regional Emerging Issues in Greater St. Louis “is to further erode the city’s ability to govern itself.” . He goes further by stating that I want “the legislature to limit the city’s control over its own revenue from the airport.”

The City of St. Louis was able to divert airport revenues to fund projects in the city because, when Congress asked airports to reinvest all profits back into their airports in 1982, it exempted St. -Louis. Legislation I introduced years ago to create area airport control has allowed the City of St. Louis to continue to collect revenue from St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

As a county executive, I believe that when something is locally funded, it should be locally controlled. Those who are taxed to fund a project should be represented on the governing body. In 1927, the Post-Dispatch declared: “The world expects St. Louis to take the lead in aviation. He views this city, the home of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh and sponsor of the “Spirit of St. Louis” as the nation’s logical air transportation hub,” and added, “St. Louis shouldn’t – can’t not fail.

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St. Louis did not fail, and voters passed a general bond issue to buy Lambert Field. By 1959, however, the airport was able to generate sufficient revenue to retire all future bonds, and voters passed another bond issue after the Post-Dispatch reported the mayor’s assurance of the At the time, Raymond Tucker, that the bonds would require no tax increase, would be taken out of airport revenue. , and “would not be a general obligation of the city of Saint-Louis”.

After the bond issue was approved, the federal government added another $5 million in grants for the airport expansion. When city voters approved a $41.5 million issue in 1991, the Post-Dispatch explained, “City voters didn’t oblige their wallets. Airport revenues, such as landing fees and gate rentals, will pay off any bonds sold. »

During their tenures, St. Louis County leaders Gene McNary and Buzz Westfall lobbied for regional ownership and management of all airports in the region. After Mayor Vince Schoemehl launched a plan for more regional control of the airport, William Woo of the Post-Dispatch predicted, “Sooner or later the nonsense of St. by a population of 2.5 million become apparent. »

When I introduced my airport governance bill as an amendment several years later, every senator from St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties supported it, but the legislation was been blocked by the Democratic-controlled legislature.

The day after the Post-Dispatch editorial on the subject, airport planners announced a long-term plan for a new terminal estimated by the airport manager at $1 billion. The director said it would be funded by airline fees, fees from existing passenger facilities and federal funds. When asked if a local tax increase would be necessary, she replied, “I don’t see us doing that.”

Those of us who are airport users or federal taxpayers have been taxed without representation, when it comes to the airport, and that’s what the legislature should fix.

Another example of the same problem is the Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, created by the Legislature to expand the St. Louis Convention Center so that it could also serve as an indoor stadium if the city were granted an NFL franchise. Citizens of the city, county and region were not taxed. State ratepayers paid half the cost and visitors to the city and county of St. Louis, very few of whom would be local ratepayers but some of whom would be state ratepayers, paid tax on hotel/motel rooms to cover the other half. What type of representation were state taxpayers given to the authority?

Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislative Assembly at that time, as Republicans do now, and the final bill allowed city and county leaders, whose constituents paid only through their taxes, to state, to appoint a majority (six) of the members and allowed Republican Gov. John Ashcroft to appoint only a minority (five) of the members, and they had to “be a resident of the city, county, or county contiguous to the county”.

While state ratepayers living in the city or county of St. Louis have been represented over the years, Kevin Cantwell of St. Charles County was the first and only governor-appointed member of a contiguous county. So the state taxpayers in my county are represented, but the state taxpayers in the other 111 counties in the state suffer taxation without representation at a time when the authority will be involved in the decision to spend NFL rules.

Steve Ehlmann is the county executive of St. Charles.