Sen. Gina Walsh Pre-files Legislation Enabling Voters to Offer Regional Support to Sustain the Future of the Nationally Renowned Saint Louis Zoo

Walsh - Banner - Press Release - 010813 - II

JEFFERSON CITY — Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, today pre-filed legislation to enable four St. Louis metropolitan area counties and the City of St. Louis to approve ballot initiatives for a sales tax of one-eighth cent or less. That tax would go to support critical infrastructure, as well as animal conservation needs for the Saint Louis Zoo in future years.

“This legislation would allow St. Louis area residents to better support the Saint Louis Zoo in its efforts to connect generations of families with nature and wildlife,” said Senate Minority Leader Walsh. “The Zoo is an engine for economic growth — annually adding more than $230 million and 2,100 jobs to the region’s economy. The Zoo’s existing tax support has remained flat while Zoo expenses have risen by 35 percent in recent years. The Zoo also faces millions of dollars in needed repairs to deteriorating infrastructure on its 100-year-old campus. You can’t continue to have a world-class, 21st century zoo with an early 20th century infrastructure.

“The Zoo was recently voted America’s top free attraction in a nationwide poll. This legislation would allow residents across the region to invest a tiny amount — 12.5 cents or less on a $100 purchase — to keep the Zoo free of admission charges and to support a cultural gem that provides another reason our region is a great place to live and work.”

The legislation would offer St. Louis City and the counties of St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis the option to place a sales tax increase on a future ballot for their citizens to then vote for approval. The tax rate would be no greater than one-eighth of one cent.

In addition, the legislation provides for the creation of a commission composed of members appointed by the elected officials of participating counties. This commission would have the responsibility to provide oversight and stewardship for all tax revenue from the sales tax.

The sales tax would be used only for the benefit of the Saint Louis Zoo, and it would not replace the property tax now collected from St. Louis city and county residents and overseen by the Zoo Museum District Commission, established in 1972.

“Responsible leadership requires that the Zoo acts now to address the threat of rising expenses surpassing available revenue,” said Sen. Walsh. “Another threat the Zoo must address is the loss of species in the wild and in zoos. Part of managing and caring for animals is developing a program to conserve and breed endangered species; this is critical to the future of the Saint Louis Zoo and to the animals in their care. This funding would also help address that need. Whether future generations have a world-class Zoo in coming years will depend on the decisions we make now.”