ST. LOUIS, Mo. — St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and his Democratic primary challenger, County Councilman Steve Stenger, have taken somewhat different positions on a proposed sales tax increase that would fund Missouri road projects.
The Aug. 5 ballot will carry a measure that, if approved by voters, would increase the state sales tax by three quarters of one percent over ten years. Dooley said the issue would not be a priority for his administration, and issued a statement tentatively opposing the measure, while Stenger said he supported the measure, despite agreeing that a sales tax may not be the “best funding mechanism.”
“I can understand why it’s on the ballot, however I believe the greater challenge lies in addressing the significant problems we face with our schools and the need to provide access to healthcare for the people in this state who fall through the cracks,” Dooley said in a statement, which also said that the issue is “not a top priority for his administration.”
Stenger countered with a statement supporting the measure in principle and hammering Dooley’s ability to work with the City of St. Louis on transportation.
“Given the choice of either abandoning transportation or this tax, I support job creation,” Stenger said in a statement to The Missouri Times. “Further, I am disappointed that the news conference today on the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership’s jobs proposal for the region did not even address the transportation issue.”
Stenger went on to say that Dooley’s position on the tax “destroys” his credibility to work with MODOT on behalf of St. Louis County.
“The idea that the county would have a position contrary to the city on this tax on regional transportation needs is befuddling,” Stenger said.
The measure was approved for the ballot by the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature, which was far from united on the issue. Supporters say the funds will revitalize Missouri’s crumbling roads and bridges and provide for thousands of jobs. Opponents say sales taxes unfairly punish the poor and that the measure amounts to a massive tax increase.
Gov. Nixon announced last week that the question would be placed before Missouri voters on the primary ballot, a surprising move given that primaries often have much lower turnouts then general elections.