If you had $1.49 billion for transportation projects, how would you spend it? Would you repair highways? Bolster mass transit service? Enhance bike lanes?
This isn’t some academic exercise. The St. Louis region’s political leaders are considering how to divide the potential proceeds from a 0.75 percent sales tax increase for transportation. These decisions could have a transformative impact on how St. Louis area residents get around.
But here’s the twist: You have to make this decision very, very quickly.
When it comes to a proposal to raise the state’s sales tax to pay for transportation projects, two of Missouri’s top Democratic officials appear to be on opposing sides of the fence.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill favors the proposal, which – if approved by voters in August – would enact a 10-year, 0.75 percent sales tax for transportation projects. And even though he’s sent signals that he opposes the proposal, Gov. Jay Nixon is withholding statements about the tax increase for now.
Few could accuse the Missouri General Assembly of languishing during its last few days of session.
In fact, the legislature’s last dash was something of a whirlwind: It featured fierce debates over bills about student transfers and abortion restrictions. Lawmakers also sent proposals on a transportation tax and early voting procedures to the November ballot. Other efforts fizzled out, including last-minute pushes to expand and reconfigure the state’s Medicaid system.
Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul is no stranger to fighting city hall.
At this point last year, Paul was clawing his way back into office after a high-profile – and at-times bizarre – impeachment saga. Despite an intense and expensive effort from his political adversaries to remove him, Paul eventually kept his job as mayor. His town has generally been out of the headlines ever since.
Rod Jetton was once the most powerful lawmaker in Missouri.
As speaker of the Missouri House, he had the power to exalt or kill any bill that flowed through the General Assembly. From all appearances, he had a bright political future.
Behind the scenes, however, Jetton was on a course for self-destruction.
By the time he left office, the FBI was investigating him for bribery. He was facing serious jail time after being accused of felony assault. Just months after being one of the most powerful men in Missouri politics, Jetton was broke and without a job.
Greendale is home to about 700 people in north St. Louis County. The primarily residential community features stately brick houses along seven, well-maintained streets. The town’s city hall consists of two rooms inside an office building. It contracts with nearby Normandy for police service. Its big-ticket expenditures include cleaning streets and trimming trees.
Charlie Giraud found a lot to like. He’s lived in bigger St. Louis County municipalities like Ballwin and University City. He appreciated Greendale’s friendly neighbors, racial diversity and close-knit community.
With roughly a month left to go before adjournment, many of the Missouri General Assembly’s big issues remain unresolved.
That’s not too surprising. Big-ticket legislation often passes — or dies — in the last weeks of the session. With about a month to go before the final gavel falls, legislation dealing with tax cuts, the state’s criminal code and the student transfer situation are all still up in the air.
The resolution of some conflicts could hinge on unity from Republicans, who control the legislature, while others may fall along less predictable fault lines.
While Jay Ashcroft, the son of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, was always interested in politics, he also said he didn’t consider it “the highest calling.”
“My highest calling in life is to be a good husband to my wife and to be a good father for my kids," said the attorney and engineer from unincorporated St. Louis County. “In the last couple of years when I’ve seen how government has been working at the state level and unfortunately not always working, I kept coming around to the conclusion that I need to be part of the solution.”
For all intents and purposes, the 2014 election season looks to be a great, big bust.
Nobody should be surprised, as 2014 was always a way station to 2016. But hardly anybody expected that the only statewide race on the ballot would feature state Auditor Tom Schweich facing off against a Libertarian or Constitution Party candidate -- but not even a token Democrat. And some previously heated state Senate contests completely fizzled out.