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Transportation plan fails in Senate

May 15, 2001
By: Nick White
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A Republican-driven plan to study the future of Missouri's roads failed by one vote in the state Senate Tuesday, as Democrats argued that a study is not needed to see Missouri's roads are crumbling.

The straight party-line vote -- with one GOP no show -- reflected how contested the issue of Missouri's roads has been for the 2001 legislative session, dividing lawmakers by political party and geographic area represented.

Only three days remain in the session, and if increased funding for roads does not pass by then, the General Assembly will have to wait until next year to address what seom lawmakers have called a "crisis."

The Senate resolution that failed, proposed by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, did not call for the generation of hundreds of millions in revenue proposed by Gov. Bob Holden and approved by the House. Instead, the failed resolution called for further research into the state's need for transportation.

Democrats argued that the GOP push for more research is a "thin veil" for not taking action on the real problem - the state Department of Transportation needs more money. Democrats have pushed for gasoline and sales tax hikes to solve the problem, and voters would need to approve a tx increase.

Republicans clashed loudly with Democrats on the Senate floor during debate.

"You and the other elected members of this body are scared to let the people vote on this issue when people are dying across this state because of the accidents," said Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, to Sen. David Klarich, R-St. Louis County, who responded with yelling.

"That blood has been pouring on the streets for a decade under your control," Klarich shouted to Mathewson. "Don't try to put it at the footsteps of the Missouri Senate."

The resolution might have passed had all Republican senators voted. But Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Joplin, broke ranks with his fellow Republicans by not voting. He said he was sitting in his office and reviewing papers.

Singleton said if he had been present, he would have voted for the resolution.

"Studying never hurt anything," Singleton said.