It was disappointing Monday to hear from Gov. Jay Nixon that he will not support the proposed three-quarter-cent sales tax for transportation. In his statement opposing the tax, he did not offer an alternative to raising revenue for badly needed transportation needs in Missouri.
There is no question that the governor’s decision on the transportation issue was influenced by the General Assembly’s actions on cutting taxes in the recently ended session. The Legislature approved placing the three-quarter-cent sales tax on the ballot to permit voters to make a decision on needed revenue for the Missouri Department of Revenue (MoDOT). The governor placed the sales tax issue on the August ballot. That surprised many people, some of whom believe the governor did that because he was against it and believes it more readily will be defeated in August than if voted on in November. The decision to vote on the sales tax in August was made last week.
The governor offered no alternative as how to generate more revenue for transportation. In his statement the governor said “any proposal to change how we fund transportation must be considered in the context of the overall tax policy of our state and funding for other priorities like education.” The governor said the Legislature has “misguided policies” on taxes and the Republican-controlled General Assembly has favored the more affluent taxpayers and businesses and has “shifted the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto working Missourians, while undermining support for education and other vital public services that create opportunity for Missouri families.”
Politics is playing heavily in the relationahip of the governor and the General Assembly. Gov. Nixon is a rather moderate Democrat while the legislative branch is ruled by Republicans. The two have gotten along fairly well — as well as could be expected — but the tone by both has changed in the last couple of months. The word exchanges have become more pointedly bitter.
Franklin County’s highway and bridge needs, like other counties, are pressing. We have a major roadway, Highway 47, that is inadequate due to traffic volumes. Other state roads and bridges in the county are substandard. Widening of Highway 47 is a priority if the three-quarter-cent is approved by voters. Without that added revenue, improving Highway 47 is a distant, distant dream.
The governor recognizes the need for transportation improvements. He should have offered an alternative revenue-raising proposal when he turned his back on the sales tax. That would have demonstrated transportation leadership. His opposition hasn’t killed the sales tax proposal. Voters will have the final say. As we said, we are disappointed in the governor’s position on this issue.