From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Legislators question Holden's lack of a road plan

January 30, 2001
By: Nick White
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - While calling on legislators to act on the state's growing transportation problems, Missouri's new governor came under legislative attack Tuesday for not offering a single proposal upon legislators could act.

Republican and Democrat legislators said they agreed on one thing after Gov. Holden's speech: Holden should have given particulars about a plan to solve Missouri's transportation funding dilemma but didn't.

In his speech, Holden said he was "prepared to take the lead" in finding necessary funding for Missouri's roadways and bridges, but he did not spell out a specific plan that identified where funding would be found.

At a later news conference, Holden defended his lack of a proposal saying nothing could get passed until there is bipartisan support for a plan. But lawmakers said the governor should put one on the table.

"We've had no specific plan from him beside a ringing declaration that he wants to lead," said Sen. President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.

Legislators voiced concern, which has been echoed by Holden, that any transportation plan would need the governor's support to pass the legislature.

The criticism came even from a member of Holden's own party.

"I was disappointed," Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles County, said, about the plan's omission from the speech. "Nothing is going to pass without the governor's support."

Crucial to the passage of a transportation plan, Kinder said, is the restoring of accountability of the Transportation Department after its abandonment of the 15-year construction plan used to justify the last gasoline tax increase. More accountability, he argued on behalf of the Republican Party, would come from the appointment of a Secretary of Transportation by MoDOT.

"The first step toward better highways is more acountability," Kinder said. "Lack of accountability is the reason why we are paying for highways that were never built."

The 15-year plan cited by Kinder was approved in 1992. It generated extra revenue for highway funding from a six cents per gallon gasoline tax. The plan, which promised a four-lane highway through every town of 5,000 or more, did not survive, but the tax remains.

House said Kinder's insistence that accountability is of paramount importance, which Holden also said in his speech, is political rhetoric.

"They've been saying that for ten years," House said. "It's a big, fat cop-out."

Holden told reporters after his speech that it would be in Missouri's "best long-term interest" to solve the state's perceived funding shortage immediately, but his plans on how to solve it were ambiguous.

"I rule nothing off the table at this time that focuses on the future," Holden said.

House is on the Senate Transportation Committee, where a bill now sits that would raise Missouri's sales tax by one cent per dollar and gasoline tax by two cents per gallon from 17 to 19 cents.

Last week, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, said he doubted his bill would pass the committee, but House said he sees the bill a good first step.

"It's a starting point, a framework," House said of the bill, adding that a tax increase would likely be necessary to raise transportation revenue.

"What other way is there?" House said, referring to a tax increase.

During the State of the State address, Holden acknowledged that Missouri's transportation system needed immediate attention.

"When we talk about missed opportunities in Missouri, the prime example is transportation," Holden said.

Holden said one-third of Missouri's bridges, 5,000 miles of roads and 5,700 intersections need improvement or replacement, adding that one person is killed every 6.7 minutes on Missouri's roads.

"All of these deficiencies are impeding our ability to compete in this 21st century economy," Holden said.