Riders board the MetroLink at the UMSL South Station. The Public Policy Research Center at UMSL just released a new report that looks at the successful passage of Prop A, a mass transit sales tax increase.

Last year, St. Louis County voters approved Proposition A, a mass transit sales tax increase. And they did so by a surprisingly lopsided margin, given the state of the economy. Prop A’s successful passage is the topic of a new report released by the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

“From Checkbook Campaigns to Civic Coalitions: Lessons from the Passage of Prop A” was written by UMSL political scientists Todd Swanstrom and David Kimball with Tom Shrout of Avvantt Partners, LLC, and assistance from Laura Wiedlocher, a graduate research assistant with the PPRC. A panel discussion on the topic will be presented at 4 p.m. tomorrow (April 6) in the Summit Lounge at UMSL’s J.C Penney Conference Center.

In the report, the authors wrote that Prop A was approved with a surprising 63 percent majority despite a similar initiative, Prop M, being defeated 17 months earlier. The 2010 vote also happened in the midst of a post-recession economy slow to recover, high unemployment and the rise in popularity of a national anti-tax movement.

The researchers studied the campaign for Prop A to determine what factors were responsible for its success, as well as the role of key stakeholders and civic coalitions. Their findings could serve as a lesson for future tax initiative campaigns and civic coalitions.

“Compared to the defeat of Prop M in 2008, two things make the 2010 victory particularly surprising,” explained Swanstrom, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy Administration. “First, Prop A succeeded in an off-year election, when typically the electorate is less inclined to support tax increases. Secondly, Prop A did not enjoy unified business support, which is usually the kiss of death for transit tax initiatives.”

Prop A resulted in a half-cent mass transit sales tax increase that now generates almost $75 million a year to maintain the bus system and expand light rail in St. Louis.

Swanstrom and Kimball, associate professor of political science, will present their findings at tomorrow’s panel discussion, which will be held on the one-year anniversary of the passage of Prop A.

Eddie Roth of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will serve as the panel discussion moderator. Panelists will include Thomas Shrout, retired executive director of Citizen for Modern Transit; John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Metro; Donald Suggs, publisher of The St. Louis American; Nancy Cross, of the Greater St. Louis Transit Alliance Service Employees International Union Local 1; and Adam Shriver, a blogger for the St. Louis Activist Hub.

The event is free, but registration is required. Register by e-mailing info@cmt-stl.org. Call 314-516-6392 for more information.

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Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz