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Supporters react to August date for transportation tax


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Supporters of a sales tax increase that would fund Missouri road projects are still maneuvering for a victory despite the surprising move from Gov. Jay Nixon to place the issue before voters on the primary ballot instead of the general election.

The question of whether Missouri voters will raise their own sales tax rate by three quarters of a percent for the next decade will be decided in August, only a few short months away. The looming deadline will give both sides much less time to raise money and could inhibit supporters ability to communicate the need to voters.

Sen. Mike Kehoe
Sen. Mike Kehoe

“I am confident that, despite the tight time frame, MoDOT and communities and citizens across the state will develop a project list that fits Missouri’s transportation and economic development needs and allow Missourians to make an informed decision, one that will affect them directly, in August,” said Sen. Mike Kehoe in a statement to The Missouri Times. Kehoe was perhaps the stronger supporter of the measure in the Senate despite opposition from a small faction of his Republican colleagues.

Former state senator and executive director of the Missouri Transportation Alliance, Bill McKenna, said most supporters believe the measure still has a chance on the August ballot because it has support from both sides of the aisle.

“Our issue is not driven by Democrats or Republicans, rural or urban, or business or labor interests,” McKenna said. “It impacts everyone, so support comes from everywhere. It’s supported by such a big, diverse group of people including the Farm Bureau, so if that brings members out, then that helps us.”

Former staffer for Gov. Bob Holden and St. Louis-based lobbyist, Jane Dueker, said that MoDOT’s enhanced credibility in the last decade might make convincing the public easier.

“In the last decade, MoDOT has enhanced its credibility among Missouri voters and I think that will increase its chances of passage,” Dueker said. “Time is of the essence, transportation infrastructure is a desperate need.”

The issue is impacting other races. Candidates in the Democratic primary for St. Louis County Executive have issued opposing statements on the issue.