Monthly Archives: February 2012

Missouri Money Put to Good Use? You Decide!

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is proposing to renovate the attorney general’s office using money which was recovered from fraud cases.

Koster’s proposal, which is pending before lawmakers, would cost about 3.2 million dollars.

Attorney General Chris Koster

Koster said on Wednesday that remodeling the Broadway State Office Building would not use general state revenues, but would instead, it would use nearly $2.8 million from a fund set up to receive money from consumer fraud and unfair merchandising cases and $400,000 from federal funds.

“The goal is to make the space equivalent to “a modest, model-quality law office,” Koster told the Associated Press. “We’re not trying to make anything fancy over there.”

Many are questioning whether the money should be used to remodel an office with the state making so many cuts on education and state employees. Sen. Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit was one of the people to question Koster’s plan when he presented it this week.

“I’m a little concerned that we’re making significant cuts in other parts of our budget, and we’re putting in new carpet and new furniture,” Kraus told the Associated Press in an interview. “The general public out there is probably not going to understand that.”

The building, originally built in 1938, has seen its share of wear and tear over time. Koster and his staff, however, have only resided in the building since late 2010.

Broadway State Office Building

According to the Alternative Press, some of the renovations the attorney general has proposed are to remove the drop ceilings on the first floor to provide a more open atmosphere, tear down some of the walls, and replace well-worn carpet squares and faded cubicles, along with improving the heating and cooling system.

So the question is, Missouri, do you approve of this? If not, how would you propose to use the money?


This Day in History

February 17th is an important day for the United States, but important in the way that you don’t want to remember it.

Today is the day in which the United States Senate passed the Missouri Compromise.

For those of you who do not know what the Missouri Compromise is, I will try to briefly explain it.

In the early 1800’s, there was some controversy over slavery. The northern states were typically against it, while the southern states relied on slaves for their plantations.

In 1818, Missouri applied to become a state, but to join as a slave state. Some members of Congress, primarily from slave states, approved, while the abolition states protested.

James Tallmadge, a congressman from New York, proposed to the House of Representatives an amendment to the Missouri constitution which said that no slaves could be imported, and eventually the existing slaves would be emancipated.

This proposal was passed by the House, but defeated in the Senate. The bill caused much unrest in the south, as they threatened secession from the Union and civil war if it passed.

To appease both sides, some of the Congressmen formed a plan to ease the tension by enacting a deal in which no new state would be allowed to join the Union unless it had a counterpart, both representing one side of the coin. The reason for this was to keep a balance between the slave states and the free states in Congress.

This deal, struck in 1820, allowed Missouri and Maine to enter the Union together, one as a slave state, the other a free state. It also stated that any territory north of the Arkansas line which attempted to join the U.S. could not enter as a slave state.

While this did ease some tension, all it did was to delay the issue. Slavery still was a hot topic, and eventually, in January of 1861, the South seceded from the Union. The American civil war began.

The Missouri Compromise was repealed in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established Kansas and Nebraska as territories of the U.S.

The slaves in the United States were set free on January 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery, however, was not outlawed until two years later, when the Thirteenth Amendment took effect.

I-70 Toll in Missouri Would Hurt the State

One of the issues that is currently being faced in Missouri is whether Interstate 70 should be made into a toll road. Under the current plan, use of the road would cost drivers roughly 10 or 15 cents per mile.

The state wants to rebuild the highway, which the Missouri Department of Transportation has rated as poor. The roads in Missouri are currently ranked the worst in the United States.

By instituting a toll on the road, Kevin Keith, the director of MoDOT, predicts it will cost 2 to 4 billion dollars to fix the roads, which the tolls could be used to help pay. It also predicts that this would create anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 jobs a year.

Drivers who would drive on I-70 would be charged by the mile, with semi-trucks paying double the price as cars. A car driving from St. Louis to Kansas City would pay roughly around 25 to 30 dollars for a 250 mile trip, just on the toll. A trip across Missouri would cost drivers at the very least 60 dollars on gas and tolls.

For truckers, the price, as stated before, is double. So, we can infer that they would pay at the very least 50-60 dollars, along with gas, while trying to get to their destination.

Faced with these prices, any person in today’s economy would look to save their money, which means finding alternate routes. This means that the traffic would be displaced from I-70 to the other “free” highways in Missouri.

One such route would be to use U.S. 50, which would get the driver from St. Louis to Kansas City, with a few side roads at the end of the trip.

What’s the issue with that?

The issue is central Missouri. Highway 50, which runs through my hometown of Linn, and through the state capital, Jefferson City,is a two lane for a good portion, and not in the best of shape. Linn cannot handle that kind of traffic, and Jefferson City, with its five stop lights on highway 50, would just be troublesome for all of that traffic seeking alternative routes. Displacing all of that traffic to such a road would cause bottlenecks and more accidents.

In an effort to generate more revenue to fix roads in Missouri, MoDOT’s plan would actually create more accidents and need to put money towards other highways which see the effects of drivers avoiding I-70.

For the record, Missouri voters have already rejected two attempts by state authorities to amend the state constitution to create toll roads. In the last attempt, it was defeated in every county in Missouri but one.

And the worst part about this plan? MoDOT director Kevin Keith is saying they can go around Missouri voters and turn the road into a toll road legally.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article in which Keith said “We believe we can do the public-private partnership for I-70, as we outlined it, legally.”

MoDOT also says that the toll will only cause about 10% of drivers to stop using I-70.

My issue is not with the toll, but the toll prices. The suggested rate would gain a lot of profit, but would cause, I believe, more than 10% of drivers to find alternative routes. I suggest trying a different option at the pricing, but also, I would like to know how you propose to charge by the mile. How will you be able to measure the miles used by each vehicle?

The fact of the matter is that a person can either drive from St. Louis to Kansas City, and pay 25 to 30 dollars to drive the 250 miles of I-70, or drive the 270 miles using U.S. 50. Which would you choose?

Here’s a video, courtesy of Missouri News Horizon, featuring Kevin Keith on the topic.