Constitutional and Charter Violations Alleged in Lawsuit Against St. Louis’ Guaranteed Basic Income

A lawsuit claims that the guaranteed basic income program of the City of St. Louis violates its own Charter and the Missouri Constitution, and therefore, it must come to a halt.

In St. Louis Circuit Court, two taxpayers have filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, Comptroller Darlene Green, Treasurer Adam Layne, and Mayor Tishaura Jones. They are seeking a “Writ of Mandamus” to put an end to the program.

Attorney Kimberly Mathis is representing taxpayers Greg Tumlin and Fred Hale in their legal case. To assist them, the Holy Joe Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting legal actions on behalf of individuals or organizations adversely affected by government and public policy, is providing additional support.

According to a media release from the organization, the Missouri Constitution and the City Charter have strict provisions that prohibit the distribution of public funds to private individuals, which is precisely what the Guaranteed Basic Income law entails.

In 2022, Jones signed Board Bill 116 into law, granting the treasurer the power to negotiate and finalize logistics contracts, while allowing the comptroller to disburse $4 million in cash to eligible recipients. To qualify, individuals had to be parents or legal guardians of youth under 18 who were enrolled in St. Louis Public Schools and city residents, with household incomes not surpassing 170% of the federal poverty level.

Around 440 households that meet the qualifications will be granted $500 per month for a duration of 18 months.

From the city’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funding of $498 million, a sum of $52.2 million has been allocated for various purposes, including the one at hand.

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The court has been requested to intervene and direct the city, along with the officials administering the program, to halt all payments immediately. The city and its officials have been given a deadline of June 28 to respond to the lawsuit as per the court’s order.

The city recently made an announcement about a revolving loan fund of $315,479 that is now available to assist low-income residents in paying for personal property taxes, automobile license tag fees, and auto insurance premiums. According to a media release from Jones’ office, this fund aims to improve traffic safety by reducing the number of uninsured motorists and expired temporary tags in St. Louis. The release also pointed out that the problem is due to the slow action of state legislators in allowing sales tax to be paid easily at the point of sale for motor vehicles, which is already being done in every other state.

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