The Senate sponsor of the proposed three-quarters-of-one-cent sales tax increase to benefit transportation doesn’t think it makes much difference that Governor Jay Nixon (D) has put it on the August primary ballot rather than the November ballot.
Senator Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) says the shorter timeframe does leave supporters less time to make their case to voters, but it won’t change the issue.
“The problem hasn’t gone away,” says Kehoe. “No matter what date we have it on the ballot, the issue of repairing our roads, safety for our citizens, economic development and the jobs these projects can create, and the ripple effect on our economy is still a significant question.”
Another issue that has Nixon has put on the August ballot is the so-called “right to farm” amendment to the Missouri Constitution. Kehoe thinks that could be a good pairing.
“Rural Missourians understand that one of the ways that we can improve the safety on our rural roads is by making sure that the Department of Transportation has significant projects,” says Kehoe. “The same people that support the Right to Farm amendment may see this as a significant option to choose in order to protect our agricultural industry, so I’m hoping those two actually could compliment each other.”
Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Matt Wills notes his party’s supporter tend to turn out strongly in primaries, and they traditionally oppose tax increases. He thinks that could be what Nixon is banking on.
“I think placing it on the primary ballot, the Governor really looks at it saying, ‘Well, Republicans will turn out to defeat this and it doesn’t hurt Democrats because it’s a ballot initiative, but Republicans in the legislature will look bad for putting up a tax increase that gets defeated by their own party,'” says Wills. “I don’t really think that is sound logic.”
The proposed transportation tax would generate an estimated $534-million annually for ten years before automatically going back in front of voters who could consider its renewal.
Nixon announced on Friday action to have that and the “right to farm” issue decided in August as well as a proposed amendments to create a new lottery ticket with proceeds benefitting Missouri veterans, to protect against searches and seizures of electronic communications and data, and to make the right to keep and bear arms in Missouri an unalienable right that must be upheld by the state.