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Jackson County leaders override White’s veto, putting stadium tax on ballot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With one day until the deadline, Jackson County legislators have voted 7-2 Monday to override County Executive Frank White’s veto of a stadium tax ballot question.

The legislature’s vote means Jackson County residents will now get to vote April 2 on a 3/8th-cent sales tax for both the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs stadium projects.

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Monday’s vote comes after two legislators — who once said they’d support White’s veto — changed course and decided to override it instead. Jalen Anderson and Sean Smith gave the legislature the six votes it needed to reach a supermajority and override White.

In separate statements, Anderson and Smith both pointed to a newly signed letter of intent as a main reason for their change of heart.

“I wouldn’t be ready to vote yes on the stadiums, you know, as a taxpayer,” Smith said about this issue Monday. “I still need to see more details flushed out, but our choice today is, ‘Do we continue to keep it on the ballot?’ And where we’re at is enough for today, but it’s not enough for the April ballot yet.”

“I’ve received overwhelming outreach from constituents and the community and stakeholders asking me to allow them to vote on this issue,” Anderson said in a statement Monday.

“Therefore, after multiple meetings with the Sports Authority, the Royals and Chiefs’ leadership, the concessions we have received thus far, and the response from the community stakeholders, I am determined that this ordinance should move forward and the question of the 3/8ths cent sales tax be on the ballot for April.”

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Representatives from the Royals, Chiefs and Jackson County Sports Complex Authority have all signed the letter of intent as of Monday. The letter broadly outlines key terms for the stadium sales tax, including some binding and non-binding provisions.

One of those terms indicates the Royals will announce their ballpark site no later than Feb. 29.

White stands firm

After legislators initially voted 8-1 earlier this month to put the question on the ballot, White handed down a veto last week.

Four legislators — Anderson, Smith, Megan Marshall and Jeanie Lauer — sided with his decision that day. Other legislators pushed back a day later, arguing White was taking the stadium tax decision away from voters.

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Now, despite a change in votes from some legislators to overturn his veto, White is standing by his decision.

“This change is a stark reminder of the complex and high-pressure environment surrounding this issue,” White said in a statement Monday. “The escalating political pressure on our county legislators is a matter of concern and highlights the need for clear, informed decision-making.”

White said although the letter of intent provides more information, he argued it’s not binding and doesn’t address some of his key issues, including detailed stadium plans and a community benefits agreement.

“Given the magnitude of this investment, it is essential that we proceed with caution and clarity,” White said. “We owe it to our residents to negotiate a deal that is not only fair but also provides clear, long-term benefits to our community.”

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The county executive also released a “scorecard,” which he said shows the status of negotiations on some issues. You can view the scorecard here.

“We don’t know where the stadium’s going to go for the Royals,” White said in a press conference with reporters after the meeting.

“We don’t know what the Chiefs’ plans are for renovation. We don’t what the Chiefs plans are for keeping their offices and workout facility, training facility in Jackson County.”

White said he will continue to work with all involved to reach an agreement.

Royals, Chiefs statement

The Royals and Chiefs issued a joint statement Monday after the legislature’s vote:

“We took an important step forward today. We thank the Jackson County legislators for their attention and care in this matter. We look forward to continuing to work with them and enabling the voters to decide on extending the longstanding partnership between the county and our teams on April 2.”

Royals President of Business Operations Brooks Sherman was in attendance Monday, along with Chiefs President Mark Donovan.

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“We think we have a great project for Jackson County, the city of Kansas City, and the region for that matter, and we look forward to sharing those details with you very soon, but again there’s a lot of work to do,” Sherman said after the meeting.

Donovan said his team plans to share a lot more details on their vision over the next two and a half months.

“We’ve been strategic on exactly when we wanted to share that information,” he said after the meeting. “We felt like we wanted some things solidified before we did that, so that’s our next step. There will be a lot coming out between now and the 2nd by both us and the Royals.”

The Chiefs have maintained they want to renovate Arrowhead Stadium while the Royals have maintained they want a new ballpark downtown.

Legislators speak out

Two legislators, Marshall and Laurer, sided with White again Monday in upholding his veto.

“Our sports teams have agreed to a Letter of Intent, which is nothing more than a promise. It is not legally binding, which means nearly everything in that letter can be abandoned at any time without legal recourse,” Marshall said in a statement.

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Legislator DaRon McGee, who sponsored the ordinance, said he’s grateful other legislators joined in overturning White’s veto.

“His tone deafness on this issue and the property tax fiasco that he supervised has awakened our community and but for their engagement we stood on the precipice of losing these teams,” McGee said in a statement.

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