Debate of whether to fund bicycle paths with potential proceeds from a transportation tax threatens to take the wheels off a proposed transportation sales tax.

The Transportation Department is currently prohibited from spending state road fund dollars on anything not for cars. The proposal would ask voters to approve a one percent sales tax to support transportation, including among other things roads and bridges, ports, railways, aviation, and bicycles.

Representative Paul Curtman (R-Pacific) doesn’t like that last part, and he offered an amendment that would remove it.

“We don’t want to codify into statute that the proper role of government is for the state to be concerned with bicycle paths,” said Curtman in explaining his amendment, “so I’m just taking the word ‘bicycle’ out of those projects.”

Supporters anticipate at least 40 percent of Missouri voters being opposed to any tax increase no matter what, and Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) argues taking bikes out of the deal only makes it harder to pass.

“All you have to lose is ten percent of the people and if you lose the bike people, I think you’re dead in the water,” Kelly tells Curtman.

Kelly is concerned alternative transportation supporters will lobby against the measure if it passes without support for bicycles. He added that if the amendment is adopted, he would oppose the transportation tax proposal.

The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation’s director tells Missourinet it was blindsided by the amendment. The Federation’s lobbying day in the Capitol is Monday.

Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (R-Town and Country) says he halted debate because time was limited on Thursday. Many lawmakers including himself wanted to leave the Capitol in time to attend the signing into law of legislation to support nursing mothers, sponsored by ailing colleague Rory Ellinger (D-University City) in University City. Diehl tells Missourinet he expects to return to the proposal on Tuesday.