Perspective: Governor accused of lacking leadership on transportation

On Monday, I was disappointed to learn that the governor had come out opposed to the transportation funding measure he placed on the August ballot. The governor’s statement and opposition is consistent with his actions on other significant and pressing matters like reforming Missouri’s antiquated tax policies, revising the state’s criminal code, and ensuring that Missouri students were not doomed to failing school districts.

Unfortunately, the transportation funding initiative is just another instance in a long line of examples where Gov. Nixon has failed to lead. Leadership takes being involved in discussions, willingness to compromise and offering solutions to problems. As it relates to transportation, the governor has done none of these things. In his statement, the governor acknowledged “the need for a robust discussion on Missouri’s long-term transportation infrastructure needs.” This is precisely the discussion that has been happening for years and the ballot initiative is the fruit of these discussions. The governor has neither led nor participated in those talks. Instead of learning about Missouri’s transportation needs, participating in discussions about possible solutions, and perhaps offering a solution of his own, Gov. Nixon, who is driven and flown everywhere he goes on your dime, instead sits back and declares unfair a solution that is the result of years of conversation and statewide vetting.

The only way this ballot initiative is unfair is if the governor believes your tax-dollars are his, and he alone determines how they should be spent. If that were true, then this ballot measure is indeed unfair to him. However, if the tax dollars the state uses are actually your dollars, dollars you earn and send to the state to perform the essential functions of government, then this is the fairest of all proposals because it gives Missourians the ability to vote specifically and unequivocally how they want to invest their tax dollars in transportation infrastructure.

Missourians have a rightful and justified distrust of how their tax dollars are utilized. They know roads and bridges are a core function of government, yet they see funding for these core functions decreasing even as entitlement spending increases unabated. This proposal makes a constitutional change to ensure that the money generated over the next 10 years can only be used for transportation purposes to fund a list of projects that will be published and made public before the vote. Missourians will not have to guess where their transportation dollars are going. No governor and no general assembly can divert it. This governor and this administration used money from the Children’s Division to pay the governor’s membership due to the National Governor’s Association, yet he expects Missourians to believe that he will use your tax dollars wisely.

This governor has learned a great deal from the administration in Washington, D.C. He and his administration are already heavily engaged in efforts to sabotage this funding solution — making calls and flexing their muscle in an attempt to silence supporters. If the ballot initiative wins, the governor loses. He cannot accept that. Politics and personal pride are more important to Gov. Nixon than the safety of Missourians, economic development, tens of thousands of jobs, and good public policy. This is precisely why Missourians dislike politics. This is precisely why this issue is on the ballot.

The good news is that Jay Nixon’s opinion is no more or less important than yours or mine in the ballot box in August.

On Aug. 6, regardless of the outcome of the election, Missouri will still have 32,000 miles of roads and 10,400 bridges that need to be maintained. The vast majority of Missourians understand that transportation infrastructure is critical for our safety and the state’s economic development going forward. You have the opportunity to decide if the projects, as determined by planning partners and stakeholders from across the state are worthy of investment. I believe and am persuaded that the window of opportunity to address Missouri’s transportation needs is closing and that we need to take action while we can. You deserve the right to decide based upon the facts and based upon a finalized project list.

My purpose and my intent is to serve the constituents of the 6th Senatorial District. If you are in the Capitol during the coming weeks and months, please stop by your office in Room 220.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District.

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