Recent Missouri Editorials
The Kansas City Star, May 19
Missourians subsidize KC stadiums to tune of $3 million per year. When will Kansans chip in?
Professional sports teams play an integral role in our region’s economy. Thousands of local sports fans from both Kansas and Missouri cheer on the Chiefs and the Royals at the Truman Sports Complex each year, and the economic benefits from the two stadiums ripple across the metro area.
But when the bill comes due for the upkeep of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, only Missourians are chipping in.
Last week, Missouri lawmakers approved House Bill 677 requiring the state to shell out $3 million per year for the next decade for maintenance at the Truman Sports Complex. It’s an extension of a 1990 measure authorizing the payments. An additional $2 million per year is allocated to maintain Bartle Hall.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jon Patterson of Lee’s Summit. The legislation would extend funding until 2031, when the leases at Kauffman and Arrowhead expire for the Royals and the Chiefs.
The measure also includes funding for the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The facility could get $2.5 million annually for 10 years starting in fiscal year 2022. For the following decade, it could receive 4.5 million each year.
When it comes to maintaining Kansas City’s stadiums, Missourians should not shoulder the responsibility alone. Kansas needs to be a part of this equation.
Jackson County pays $3.5 million per year for stadium maintenance, while Kansas City provides $2 million annually.
So, Kansas City residents are taxed three times for the stadiums: first as city residents, then as Jackson County taxpayers and again as residents of Missouri.
Kansans who still have easy access to the Truman Sports Complex get a free ride.
Inevitably, many Kansas politicians will be resistant to the idea of pitching in to pay to maintain two stadiums that are situated in Missouri. But in the interest of bistate cooperation, residents from both states that reap the benefits of the stadiums should share the cost of upkeep. And $3 million is a modest price to pay.
“It’s a worthy investment,” said Jim Rowland, executive director of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, the entity that operates the Truman complex. “That $3 million generates $27 to $31 million each year in direct taxes alone.”
Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican-turned-Democrat from Overland Park, said she would be willing to listen to any requests regarding the budgetary needs of Kansas teams that play in Kansas. But she does not support sending Kansas tax dollars to Missouri unless Kansas taxpayers make that decision.
“I think that a vote on a bistate tax is appropriate to bring to the people so that they can make that determination at the ballot box,” Clayton said. “Kansas is struggling to recover from eight years of financial mismanagement, and we need every penny for our core services.”
Clayton said there is support among her constituents for a bistate tax to fund improvements at the Truman Sports Complex. A ballot initiative similar to the 1996 measure that authorized $118 million in sales tax revenue for the renovation of Union Station would be a more appropriate approach than a legislative mandate, she said.
Both Missouri and Kansas voters approved the Union Station project. But shortly thereafter, Kansas voters rejected a tax increase to fund Truman Sports Complex upgrades and arts organizations.
Still, a new, narrowly drawn measure to fund basic stadium maintenance could win support from Kansas voters. Or Kansas lawmakers could tackle the issue themselves and allocate funds for upkeep.
Missouri’s yearly contribution to maintain Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums is a relatively small price to pay for these valuable regional assets. Now, taxpayers on the Kansas side of the state line should contribute their fair share, too.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 19
Bloomberg’s work with St. Louis on warming can reverse rampant complacency
The old activist saying “Think globally, act locally” is true even for an intrinsically global issue like climate change. There was welcome news in former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s commitment last week to expand his support of St. Louis city climate initiatives and fund a Washington University clean-energy summit next year.
If the sight of a university, a city government and a private citizen taking action embarrasses national political leaders who are currently abdicating their responsibility on this urgent issue, all the better.
Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and philanthropist, is working with leaders of 25 cities, including St. Louis, to foster local climate-change mitigation efforts. He gave the commencement address Friday at Washington U. The day before, Bloomberg appeared downtown with Mayor Lyda Krewson and Washington U. Chancellor-Elect Andrew Martin to outline the climate-change work his foundation is doing with the university and city.
It includes funding the Midwestern Collegiate Climate Summit, which will bring together leaders from universities, cities and the private sector throughout the Midwest at Washington U. early next year to collaborate on the issue of cutting emissions. Bloomberg Philanthropies will also augment an earlier grant it awarded St. Louis worth $2.5 million to reduce carbon emissions from the city’s buildings and transportation.
As the Post-Dispatch’s Bryce Gray reported last week, Bloomberg announced the initiatives on Kiener Plaza, against the backdrop of the global headquarters of Peabody, the world’s largest privately owned coal company. It was a symbolic reminder that to some in power, including President Donald Trump, efforts to move America toward renewable energy sources aren’t a crucial climate-change strategy to be embraced. Rather, such initiatives are a threat to be resisted.
Trump was talking about climate change last week as well — bragging to a rally in Louisiana about how he has rolled back Obama-era efforts to address it, approving oil pipelines and Arctic drilling, and withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. Incredibly, he called this reckless tempting of climate fate an “American energy revolution.”
America needs a real climate-change revolution. Scientists report that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, recently topped 415 parts per million for the first time in humans’ existence, an ominous milestone. That number — which was at 315 parts per million as recently as 60 years ago — is nearing a point of no return, where no amount of emissions cutting will avert catastrophic increases in sea levels and violent weather events.
Nothing St. Louis does, by itself, is going to avert that fate. But if local action across the country highlights the current leadership’s grotesque failure to even recognize the global emergency unfolding all around us, it may be the first step to getting America on the right track. Before it’s too late.
The Joplin Globe, May 19
Prioritize education funding
Missouri lawmakers made the right decision this year when putting together the state budget for fiscal year 2020.
Their $30 billion budget for the year that begins July 1 includes an additional $61 million in core K-12 public school funding, and colleges and universities are set to get at least $1 million more compared with the current year.
For both Missouri Southern State University and Crowder College, that’s expected to translate into a slight increase in state funding next year. It will be a welcome move for the schools, which both saw their appropriations flatline — and worse, outright cut — in recent years by state leaders who put higher education on the chopping block in efforts to prioritize spending elsewhere.
The budget package as proposed includes more good news: Both schools are also set to receive one-time allocations totaling more than $2 million to expand STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, including nursing, on their campuses.
Earmarking those funds was a smart move by lawmakers, including Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, who just wrapped his first legislative session as chairman of the House Budget Committee. By expanding nursing, dental hygiene, pre-medical and pre-dental programs locally, both Missouri Southern State University and Crowder will be positioned to train more health care professionals for the state’s workforce, helping to fill available jobs in fields projected for significant worker shortages over the next decade and fulfilling a pledge by Gov. Mike Parson to prioritize workforce development in high-demand fields.
Our legislators have done their part and have rightfully prioritized education funding. Now it’s up to the governor to also do the right thing — to sign the education budget bills without withholdings or restrictions. Our public schools, colleges and universities are worth the investment.