While in St. Louis Saturday to give the commencement address for the Missouri branch of the online school Western Governors University, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon refused to take responsibility for last week’s failure of Amendment 7. The ballot measure would have raised sales taxes by three-quarters of a percent for ten years in order to raise money for bridges, roads and public transportation.
“The people spoke,” said Nixon. “When you have numbers that large (voting against the tax) and you have people speak in that dramatic a fashion that represents a clear reflection of Missouri’s position on that issue right now.”
Sixty percent of around a million voters voted against the amendment.
Both Missouri State University political scientist George Connor and Republican State Senator Mike Kehoe credit the defeat of the tax to its placement on the August ballot. It’s the governor’s role to decide when amendments are placed on the ballot.
According to Connor, Republicans who vote in primaries are the least likely to vote for tax increases.
Prior to the August primary, Nixon spoke against the ballot measure, saying that it wasn’t right to raise the sales tax while there are tax loopholes.
“It just didn’t seem fair to me to say let’s give breaks to power companies, let’s give breaks to fast food restaurants but then let’s put that burden on the backs of working folks,” said Nixon, who added that transportation in Missouri was traditionally funded by user fees.
He also spoke against an exemption for truckers.
“By leaving out trucks, you put a situation in which the folks who were using the roads the most were paying nothing. And I say Missourians saw that as not a good solid step forward,” said Nixon.
Saturday was the first commencement ceremony since Western Governors University opened in Missouri last year. Nixon has been a strong supporter of the online college from the start, touting it as a way to boost the number of Missourians with college degrees.
The school caters to working adults who have some college credit already. About 200 Missourians have received degrees from WGU-Missouri so far, with about 80 gathering at the University of Missouri—St. Louis campus on Saturday for the graduation ceremony.
Four graduates spoke during the commencement, each one telling stories about wanting to go back to school, but needing to work.
St. Louisan Roy Shonda also spoke highly of the faculty mentor program. He said that he was out of work and depressed two years ago, spending his days drinking. The encouragement of his mentor and his brother gave him the strength to get his personal life in order and complete a Master’s degree in Information Security and Assurance.
“These are real live stories to deal with some of the over 700,000 Missourians that have college hours but no degree. This non-traditional learning method is a way that they can compete in the workforce,” said Nixon of the graduates.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille