Monday, October 20, 2008

Star on Amendment 4 - Conspiracy or Breakdown?

The Kansas City Star came out today with an endorsement of Missouri Constitutional Amendment #4. I suspected the endorsement was on its way when the Star's Prime Buzz avoided linking to my analysis of the giveaway to real estate and heavy construction. While I wouldn't even want to hint at a sense of entitlement to a link from another blog, the "Blog Watch" feature of the Prime Buzz is fairly generous in linking to political analysis in other blogs.

The Powers That Be seem to have decided that the less voters know about Amendment #4, the better, and it appears that the Kansas City Star has decided to sit back and allow that to happen. In three short paragraphs regarding Amendment #4, the Star manages to deliver a falsehood and a misdirection. Here, in it's entirety, is the complete coverage provided by the Kansas City Star on Amendment #4 during this entire election cycle:
The state deserves more leeway in how it uses tax-exempt bonds approved by voters 10 years ago for stormwater projects across Missouri, including in Kansas City.

The state wants to offer more loans, which have to be repaid by local utilities, and fewer grants, which don’t have to be repaid.

The change should lead to quicker access to the stormwater funds, allowing faster improvements. And it would not increase state taxes.
Paragraph 2 is a lie, and paragraph 3 is completely misleading.

While the Star claims that the Amendment will provide for more loans, the exact opposite is true. Quoting from the summary of the enabling legislation, "Currently, the Department of Natural Resources is required to provide both grants and loans using the funds resulting from the issuance of storm water control bonds, with 50% of the funding to be used for grants and 50% for loans. This amendment removes the percentage requirements as well as the requirement that both forms of financial assistance must be offered together. Additionally, the amendment removes the requirement that grants are limited to 50% of the cost of a storm water control project." I cannot explain how the Star managed to make such a wild misstatement, but it is one they should trouble themselves to correct. Whether it was from lack of research, complete misunderstanding, or they were bamboozled in one of their too-frequent editorial meetings with real estate developers and heavy construction leaders, they owe the public a correction.

As for the claim that the Amendment will not increase taxes, that's true only in the most technical sense. It does not increase taxes, but it eases the process for spending tax dollars, and allows more of them to be spent. To me, that is a whole lot like raising taxes. Denying that it raises taxes is kind of like saying that dynamiting a levee does not flood the land behind it. This Amendment "merely" blows a hole in the taxpayer protections that currently exist.

Furthermore, the Amendment goes further and diverts loan repayments away from taxpayers, so it will not be available to fund educational and medical needs of citizens, instead of fiscal needs of heavy construction and real estate developers. While that is technically not a tax increase, it will reduce tax revenue.

The Star has failed to provide news coverage regarding Amendment #4. Its brief editorial is 2/3 wrong. It is even refusing to link to sources that do provide strong analysis and thorough research. Is the Star part of a conspiracy of silence to keep voters ignorant, or did they simply have a complete breakdown in their research and analysis?

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Anonymous Lance Weber said...

If it isn't a deliberate attempt to misinform voters it is a sad example of the impotence of the Fourth Estate. I know the Star "dumbs down" its content but their analysis of C.A. 4 should be entered into a contest for most simplistic political analysis of the season.

10/21/2008 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did they endorse that ridiculous English only proposition? What about The Pitch? Did they? God I hope not.

10/22/2008 1:11 AM  
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