The Tour of Missouri bicycle race is ready to roll for another year, but organizers haven’t yet been given the go-ahead.
The race has drawn competing athletes from more than 30 countries over the past three years, and organizers are moving forward with plans to host the fourth annual event despite a possible lack of funding that would bring the race to a screeching halt.
Brent Hugh with the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Foundation says the legislature has approved a million dollars in funding for the event, and budget leaders have written Governor Nixon a letter urging him to make it happen.
“That really puts the ball in the Governor’s court,” Hugh says. “Is he going to follow that legislative intent or is he going to reverse it?”
House and Senate budget leaders have written a letter to Nixon urging him to support the event, but there is no line item specifically for the race in the budget recently passed and sent to Nixon for his approval.
“Actually … that is a decision that rest squarely on the shoulders of the Tourism Commission,” Nixon’s office says. “The chairman of the Tourism Commission, Marci Bennett, has spoken to this in other accounts … this week.”
Nixon Spokesman Scott Holste points to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which reports Bennett says because the money appropriated to the department is discretionary, “the commission probably would divert the money to the cooperative marketing program, which provides matching funds to destinations in Missouri for marketing.”
The General Assembly reduced the budget for Tourism by between $6 million and $7 million for next fiscal year and “The Governor cannot add to that budget item,” Holste says.
Hugh says finding corporate sponsorships to cover the rest of the expenses is contingent on the state ponying up the initial $1 million in funding. He says in addition to being an economic driver, it makes Missouri a more desirable place to live and to visit.
“It’s just a great event for Missouri,” he says. “It’s not a political event; it doesn’t benefit any person or any candidate; it benefits the state as a whole. And so I think if the Governor hears that vision, that’s a vision that he will embrace, and that’s what we’re hoping.”