JEFFERSON CITY - Less than hour after Gov. Bob Holden criticized a Republican transportation plan as "hocus pocus," "dirty tricks" and a "monster," the Senate's top Republican said such comments might jeopardize plans to fix Missouri roads.
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said finding money for Missouri's roads is not at the "crisis" level, as Holden and some lawmakers have argued.
Kinder also retaliated, saying he was appalled by the governor's comments.
"It shows disrespect," Kinder said. "It shows contempt for the Senate and this office, and he is liable to be treated accordingly. It will manifest itself across the board in the treatment of his legislative agenda, including on this issue."
Holden has publicly stressed transportation funding more than any other issue this legislative session. He has toured the state while accentuating the benefits of his $700 million-plus transportation plan that would get most of its revenue from sales and gasoline tax hikes.
State transportation officials have said more road money is desperately needed, especially for Interstate 70. On average, three motorists die every day in Missouri, according to Highway Patrol statistics.
But Kinder leads the Republican-controlled Senate, and Holden would need bipartisan support for his initiative, including transportation. After hearing the words Holden used to describe the GOP plan, Kinder, red-faced with eyes bulging, said he might deny Holden that support.
"He's the biggest taxer in the 180 years of statehood when there is not a crisis," Kinder said. "I repeat - I deny that there is a crisis."
Holden told reporters Thursday afternoon the Republican-sponsored transportation funding plan, which is in the form of a $176 million diversion of general revenue funds, is a "blueprint for financial disaster."
More than $500 million separates the Republicans and Holden in regard to transportation. Republicans have agreed there is a need for money but asserted that it should not come from tax increases.
Holden's words met hostility from Kinder.
"Hysterics are what you can expect from the largest taxer in the history of the state," Kinder said. "The governor doesn't like it? Tough."
The Senate Transportation Committee approved the $176 million transportation plan Thursday similar to Kinder's that prompted Holden's press conference. The 5-4 pass vote split along party lines in the Republican-controlled committee. The plan promises to encounter Democratic opposition when it now goes before the Senate floor.
Kinder said Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, would shepherd it through the upper house.
Committee Democrats were furious, saying the $176 million is not enough to solve the transportation funding need.
"I would remind the members of this committee that 82 Missourians die on our insufficient highways every month," Sen. Ted House, St. Charles, said.