Voters in Jackson County, Mo., which includes Kansas City, overwhelmingly decided yesterday to extend a sales tax that provides millions of dollars for drug enforcement, prevention and treatment, the Kansas City Star reports. The Community-Backed Anti-Drug Tax (COMBAT) was approved 22,267 to 12,391.
COMBAT is a quarter-cent sales tax that has generated $15 to $20 million annually to hire police, teach children the dangers of drugs, and give addicts the opportunity to kick narcotics. Tuesday’s results continue COMBAT through March 2011. Voters initially approved the tax in 1989 and renewed it in 1995. Supporters credit COMBAT with closing 7,200 drug houses, removing $300 million in narcotics from the streets and providing 4,300 treatment slots annually. COMBAT funds about 80 agencies.
The organization supporting the tax, Citizens for Crime Reduction, raised $120,335. Contributors included civic groups, foundations and labor unions. Two groups opposed, the Organized Opposition to the Jackson County Anti-Drug Tax and the Jackson County Taxpayers Association, ran low-key campaigns. COMBAT “better make hay while the sun shines and clear up drugs. Because when they come back seven years from now, we will be ready for them and we will start (campaigning) earlier,” said Richard Tolbert of the Organized Opposition. Opponents questioned COMBAT’s effectiveness, saying drugs remained prevalent. They said too much tax money went to law enforcement and too little to treatment. They said COMBAT aimed at low-level dealers rather than traffickers bringing drugs into the community. Opponents criticized COMBAT for funding Drug Abuse Resistance Education, which brings police officers into schools to teach the dangers of drugs. They cited studies that said DARE was ineffective.