The Buzz

TheChat: Missouri stares I-70 tolls in the eye

Interstate 70
Interstate 70

Happy new year!

▪ “The use of tolling as a revenue source for the reconstruction and expansion of I-70 is worthy of consideration.” — the conclusion of a report from the Missouri Transportation Commission to Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday that looked at the possibility of adding tolls to the overcrowded highway.

With the cost of rebuilding I-70 from St. Louis to KC estimated at more than $2 billion — and that’s money MODOT doesn’t have — the commission determined that tolls might be the way to go. In his response, Nixon sidestepped a full endorsement of the idea, which no one seems excited about even though other options have dropped away. If Nixon determines that tolls is the path forward, he’s going to have to put the full weight of his office behind the idea and hopefully recruit GOP leaders in the General Assembly to get on board, too. This is going to be an extremely tough sell in an historically low-tax state. But it’s been done before in Missouri.

▪ “I was not surprised by the ruling. How could the court rule we are constitutional in our funding when we are BELOW what was required in 2006 by the Montoy decision?” — Kansas state Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Republican, responding to Tuesday’s court ruling on financing public schools.

Most of the more moderate northeast Johnson County lawmakers interviewed by the Prairie Village Post said they weren’t surprised by the ruling, which will be appealed. Said fellow GOP Rep. Melissa Rooker, “Each successive ruling in the long legal battle has affirmed, and reaffirmed, the constitutional duty the state has to adequately fund our public school system.”

▪ “I can say it will be difficult to find additional monies.” — Kansas state Sen. Steve Abrams, an Arkansas City Republican and chair of the Senate Education Committee, on fallout from the ruling.

That’s precisely the issue when it comes to school funding in Kansas and one that lawmakers will grapple with during the 2015 session. The inclination to delay any day of reckoning on school funding will be enormous. Look for lawmakers to push this off until 2016 if they possibly can.

▪ “A divided government is a great time to solve hard problems because you don't have the next 25 years of one party blaming the other.” — Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, talking about the opportunity before the next Congress.

Blunt sounded surprisingly bullish on 2015 legislative prospects, and so did Congressman Billy Long in a joint appearance in Springfield. (link courtesy of johncombest.com).

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