The Executive Director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation says a move to keep proceeds from a proposed transportation sales tax from going to bicycle paths was a “total blindside.”
During House debate of the proposed constitutional amendment, an amendment was offered that in part would pull the word “bicycle” from the forms of transportation the tax money could support.
Executive Director Brent Hugh says in meetings throughout the state Missourians have supported a comprehensive approach to transportation infrastructure improvements, including for bicycles.
He says the need for more transportation money in Missouri is clear and his group has been a part of a multi-year process to develop the transportation tax proposal.
“It’s like a punch to the gut,” says Hugh of the amendment, offered by Representative Paul Curtman (R-Pacific). He says it sends a message to his group of, “‘Well thanks for helping us all through here but now, you know, see ya.’”
Curtman says he doesn’t want language in the state Constitution that would allow Missouri tax dollars to support bicycle infrastructure.
The amendment earned rebuke from lawmakers who said pulling the word “bicycle” from the tax proposal would seal its defeat. Many legislators say roughly 40 percent of voters are expected to be opposed to any tax increase proposal, and losing the support of alternative transportation backers would cost enough votes to spell certain failure.
Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) says the mounting of opposition by bicycle supporters started almost immediately.
“Monday is bike day at the Capitol,” notes Kelly, referring to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation’s lobbying day. Support for bicycling in the transportation funding plan is one of the issues participants are urged to ask lawmakers to support during the day. A statement from the Federation is also urging citizens to contact representatives and voice opinions on social media about the issue.
Kelly says he is only “barely supportive” of the transportation tax proposal, but he doesn’t like what he calls a “sneak attack” on bicycles.
“I don’t like that as the method,” says Kelly of Curtman’s amendment, “and I also don’t like the public policy of taking alternative transportation out of the package.”
Kelly offered a motion to divide Curtman’s amendment into two pieces so that lawmakers could vote on them separately. Debate of the transportation tax was then suspended, leaving the issue to be settled when it is taken back up. Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (R-Town and Country) says that will happen Tuesday.