The Missouri Legislature is about to begin its final kick for 2017. With three weeks to go, the lawmakers are gearing up to roar to the finish line.
I just hope they drive carefully.
More than any other group of 163 (state reps) or 34 (senators), this bunch should understand the condition of Missouri’s roads. After all, they travel from every corner, nook, cranny and hamlet of the state to get to Jefferson City so they can vote No on nearly everything.
Unless they are traveling by train (hah!) or plane (not likely), these people must drive on the roads. They have to notice that they aren’t the best, especially those who use I-70, which is a separate adventure, an extra-thrilling experience like an amusement park ride that never stops and won’t let you off.
Now, we elect these people so they can use their practical experience to represent our best interests. It’s a pretty simple concept. It’s good to have a cross-section up there with some expertise in things like banking, the law, construction, insurance, retail, labor, education and so on. The ones who don’t have much experience in those areas can learn from those who do.
Even if there are a few rich people there who get chauffeured to work, all 197 of them ought to be able to recognize what lousy, disintegrating and dangerous roads we have in the Show-Me State. They have to drive them twice a week during the legislative session, and presumably when they are running for office.
Not everyone is an accountant or good with money, but almost everyone (except a kid or two of mine, but that’s another story) understands this: Stuff costs money.
What kind of stuff? Why, asphalt and concrete and guardrails and lane reflectors and strand wire. Also, road signs and bridges and reflective paint and striping equipment.
I’m going out on a limb and will declare that all 197 Missouri legislators understand that those things cost money.
Now here, apparently, is a thinner limb – reasonable people also ought to realize that all of the stuff on that list eventually wears out and must be replaced.
This is where it seems to break down with the Missouri Legislature. Its inaction on repairing or funding our roads might lead us to believe the members think that in Missouri, roads and bridges are indestructible and last forever.
This defies logic and experience. We know they travel on what is left of our highways. They must see them firsthand. If they travel them and still refuse to fund repairs, it leaves us just one explanation about what the legislators think:
The roads aren’t that bad.
That conclusion is pretty suspicious. As we know, legislators like to travel. I’m guessing they have ridden the roads in other states. They should have a basis for comparison.
I recently returned from a trip to Mississippi. Though it has a Southern charm and pace in some ways, the Magnolia State does not have a stellar reputation for providing services. There is a lot of poverty. Its education system is suspect. The state, frankly, is the butt of a lot of jokes.
But their roads are betters than ours.
Back in Jefferson City, either we have a major case of denial, or the reality of our crummy highways is held hostage to a no-taxes-for-any-reason ideology that can’t be derailed by just a few thousand deadly miles of bad pavement.
Increase the gasoline tax?
Not in your lifetime, Bucko.
How about nudging that lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax?
Are you kidding me?
Well, maybe a general tax increase with an ironclad guarantee that it go 100 percent to roads?
Get serious, son.
No, no, no and no.
Meanwhile, as shoulders crumble and disappear, as potholes open up capable of swallowing Volkswagens, we blissfully blunder on with the mythology that we are turning into a “business-friendly” state.
Maybe so, if your business is selling tires, wheel alignments or running a body shop (either automotive or of the human variety).
For the rest of us, business opportunity is enhanced by the ability of our customers to get to us, preferably in one piece.
Good roads cost money and don’t last forever.
Who would have thought those concepts were over the heads of our esteemed legislators?