Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 152
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for August 1, 2002

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Our August primary is over and both statewide tax issues were resoundingly defeated. The cell phone tax for 911 lost because local emergency dispatch people across the state didnít back it. It appears that the money raised would have gone to subsidize upgrades by the cell phone companies and the dispatch services would have had to come up with their upgrades on their own. A tax that sends money to Jeff City and doesnít send anything back is going to lose, no matter how worthwhile the service.

The highway tax was whacked even harder. All that advertising by the backers made folks even more suspicious, especially when they learned the surveys (the ones that claim our roads are so bad) came from the road construction industry, the same folks who paid (indirectly) for the ads. Too much was going to cities, and folks do not forgive the highway department for reneging on the 15-year plan.

If there is to be a tax increase for roads, it will have to come via constitutional amendment. First, governance of the highway department must be made directly accountable. I suggest the Highway Commissioners be handled like our appellate judges. The governor could continue to appoint commissioners, but appoint them from specific regions. Every few years the voters from that region would decide whether to retain their commissioner. That would certainly force the commissioners to stay in touch with their areas.

Second, require that all fuel tax money go directly into the highway fund. Let the highway patrol be funded by automobile registration fees. Instead of siphoning money off to support overhead and audit functions, let those be covered by the general fund. Perhaps the legislature could put the highway bureaucracy on a diet so they donít have time to go out and ďeducateĒ us (itís illegal for them to campaign) on why we should vote for a tax increase.

Finally, allow toll roads. Donít convert existing roads, just use the concept for new interstate highway construction. I wonder if the folks who concluded it would be cheaper to build a third lane on I-70 considered the economic cost of forcing traffic to slow down for construction for so long a time. A new alternative would alleviate the traffic and if done right pay for itself.

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