The “No on 7″ campaign is now in full swing, with yard signs flying out of my car trunk; fliers being distributed; 60,000 pieces of campaign literature about to go out to St. Louis area voters; and the proposed constitutional amendment getting hammered in the letters to the editor section of The Star.
I’ve distributed about 75 yard signs the last two days, and they relay a strong message. Take a look:
To me, the point about the trucks is perhaps the biggest vulnerability in the proponents’ argument in favor of a new 3/4 cent sales tax to finance transportation projects statewide. It’s almost incomprehensible that the proponents would try to sneak past the voters a huge sales-tax increase that would give the trucks — which do the most damage to our highways — a total pass.
It’s definitely an insult to the intelligence of the Missouri voters. The “insulters” are the General Assembly majority that got this on the ballot and the special interests that would benefit from spending, oh, about $6 billion of new sales-tax revenue generated in the first 10 years of the tax.
The special interests are, primarily, the “heavy construction” companies, the engineering firms and the suppliers of materials such as concrete and asphalt. Collectively, they’re better known as “the concrete cartel.”
The heavy construction associations in Kansas City and St. Louis and the state association in Jefferson City are pouring hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign. The “Industry Advancement Fund” on our side of the state has put in more than $600,000 alone.
I think this would be a difficult proposal to pass, even if there was no organized opposition. Unfortunately for the proponents, a St. Louis couple — Tom and Debra Shrout, who have deep backgrounds in transportation planning — are running a very effective, highly visible opposing campaign through their Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions campaign committee. I am working closely with them.
Their committee is not deeply funded — spending might hit $25,000 — but it doesn’t have to be. On an issue like this, the goal is to simply reinforce people’s instincts that a new statewide sales tax is a terrible way to pay for billions of dollars of transportation projects. The fair way to go is to put before the voters a proposed increase in the state fuel tax, which, at 17 cents a gallon, was sixth lowest in the nation as of last year. In addition, the gas tax hasn’t changed since 1996 — almost 20 years. It is a direct user tax, and that is where those who want more money for the Missouri Department of Transportation should be looking.
Jefferson City resident Dennis Morrissey is one of many people who agree with that line of thinking. In a letter to the editor in today’s KC Star, Morrissey said, “If more funds are needed to maintain our roads, we should consider increasing the user-based fuel tax.”
So, what the hell was the General Assembly thinking about when it proposed a wholesale shifting of the funding burden from highway users to the general population?
Well, some people theorize that the proponents were guided by voter surveys showing, purportedly, that a general sales tax was more palatable than a higher gas tax.
I don’t believe it for a minute. The sales tax is the most regressive of all taxes, and people are sick of it. I think the special interests pushed hard to put the onus on the general public, and a General Assembly majority caved.
But I think that on Aug. 5 the voters are going to send the General Assembly and the special interests a strong message:
Get back to where you once belonged.
You’ve seen our yard signs. Now here’s a look one of the proponents’ yard signs.
I think that sign is emblematic of the proponents’ entire campaign…listing badly.
In addition to the yard signs, we have a really good billboard — 48 feet by 14 feet — on southbound Noland Road at 35th Street in Independence.
Here’s what that looks like:
If you would like a yard sign, let me know. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org