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Jackson County Legislature Defies Frank White to put Chiefs and Royals Stadium Funding on Ballot Voters to Decide on Sales Tax April 2

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Above image credit: A view of a possible Royals ballpark in the East Village area of downtown. (Rendering | Populous)
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2 minute read

Jackson County voters in April will vote on whether to renew a crucial stadium sales tax for the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs, after legislators overrode a last-minute veto from the county executive just before the deadline to finalize the spring ballot.

The final 7-2 vote from the Jackson County Legislature follows County Executive Frank White’s Thursday veto that put its placement on the April ballot in jeopardy. The legislature needed at least six votes — out of nine total — to override White’s veto. The legislature didn’t have enough votes at first, as legislators Jalen Anderson, Jeanie Lauer, Megan Marshall and Sean Smith said they supported White’s veto on Thursday.

But in the days since, Anderson and Smith seemed to change their minds, giving the legislature the numbers it needed. And it faced a tight deadline: the ballot question for the April election has to be finalized by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Legislators Megan Marshall and Jeanie Lauer voted to sustain the executive’s veto.

The ballot question will ask whether to renew the existing 3/8ths cent stadium sales tax for 40 years to fund the Royals’ new baseball stadium and the Chiefs’ still-undisclosed plans for Arrowhead Stadium. The election will take place on April 2.

The teams have said their future in Jackson County hinges on the April passage of the 3/8ths cent sales tax.

The Royals still have not announced a final location for the stadium. Team owners are deciding between the East Crossroads, at the site of the former Kansas City Star printing press, and the East Village near downtown.

When White issued his veto on Thursday, he asked for “deeper reflection and negotiation” before putting the tax to the public.

Neither team has negotiated new leases or development agreements with the county. No contracts have been signed regarding the future of either team — but representatives with the Royals and Chiefs and Jackson County officials say progress is being made on that front.

In a statement before the legislature meeting on Monday, White said the teams signed the letter of intent adopted by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority. That non-binding document outlines terms for the Chiefs and Royals’ future with the county.

White said there are still several unresolved issues, including the absence of a final site location for the Royals, enforceable leases, a commitment from the Chiefs to keep its training facilities and headquarters in Jackson County and a community benefits agreement. Workers rights groups have been advocating for such an agreement to guarantee living wages for stadium workers and affordable housing.

In a joint letter from the Chiefs and Royals, the Royals committed to finalizing a site location by Feb. 29. The Chiefs and Royals also committed to “substantial private contribution” to their respective projects, but did not specify how much money that entails.

The teams and county are still negotiating how to pay for the demolition of Kauffman Stadium. White has maintained he does not want the county to pay for it. The Royals said in the joint statement that team and county representatives are considering financing options that would not put the county on the hook.

Celisa Calacal covers Missouri politics and government for KCUR 89.3, where this story first appeared. KCUR is a member of the KC Media Collective.

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