Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Looking Down Ballot - Missouri Constitutional Amendment #4 - Stormwater Changes

Constitutional Amendment #4 is a classic "down ballot" item. It's confusing, with no practical impact apparent to the average voter, and nobody is going to talk about it before the election. Nobody is spending money to oppose it, and the people who stand to profit from it are smart enough to lay low and not draw any attention. No billboards on I-70 will be exhorting citizens to oppose or support Constitutional Amendment #4. So it provides me with a rare opportunity to be the sole voice in opposition to a statewide issue, and I'm cantankerous enough to take it.


Here's the language that will appear on your ballot:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to change provisions relating to the
financing of stormwater control projects by:

limiting availability of grants and loans to public water and
sewer districts only;

removing the cap on available funding and existing restrictions on

requiring loan repayments to be used only for stormwater control projects?

It is estimated the cost to state governmental entities is $0 to $236,000 annually.
It is estimated state governmental entities will save approximately $7,500 for each bond
issuance. It is estimated local governmental entities participating in this program may
experience savings, however the amount is unknown.
Here's a more informative piece about the enabling legislation. 99 out of 100 voters will read this language and vote "yes" or "no" without understanding what in the heck it is really about. Because we're polite, docile voters who assume that measures like these are about helping to build necessary storm sewers, 56 of those voters will vote "yes", and the wealthy real estate interests and heavy construction companies will toast our ignorance with fine champagne.


A few weeks ago, I did a post that included a mention of how Kansas City is controlled by "dirt and concrete" - the twin interests of heavy construction and holders of prime real estate. It should come as no surprise that the same interests of dirt and concrete control much of what happens in Jefferson City, too. Constitutional Amendment #4 will enable millions of tax dollars - money that will not go to support education or children who need healthcare - to be spent on storm water projects designed to enhance property values of favored interests and generate millions of dollars in revenue for the heavy construction companies that will install those storm sewers.


Alert readers will note that my claim that millions of dollars will be transferred is controverted by the very language that will appear on the ballot. Gone Mild claims that millions are at stake, while the ballot language pegs it at a measly few hundred thousands of dollars.

Who is right? Gone Mild, of course.

The figure included on the ballot is only the amount of money that will go to hire a few people to shovel the real money to the interests of dirt and concrete. The millions of dollars that will get transferred will come from other appropriations, so they don't get counted. It's kind of like if someone gives you the keys to a vault full of gold, and you claim that they only gave you a $3 key.

In this case, that key opens the door to about $150 million in tax dollars that got approved a decade ago, but hasn't yet found its way to the people that lust for it. Tax law changes are part of the reason, but this Amendment goes beyond making a few technical changes in tax laws. In fact, it abolishes the requirement approved by the voters that half the give-away be in the form of loans. It also eliminates a $20 million cap on the size of the projects we taxpayers will be paying for.


The reason you don't know more about Amendment #4 is not because you're stupid. It's because the powers that be expect you to docilely support a multi-million dollar giveaway without bothering to provide you with justification or even explanation. In fact, they are probably right. I expect that this Amendment will pass, because Missourians have lost touch with their "Show me" attitude, and will assume that something like this wouldn't have made it to the ballot if it weren't a good idea. In a climate where the interests of dirt and concrete can fleece the public for $150 million dollars without even undertaking a massive PR campaign to explain why, ignorant voters are a useful tool. As long as we go along with misleading down ballot measures and can be relied on to pass them without demanding to know what they are, we will continue to be surprised by finding provisions like this one coiled and hissing in the middle pages of our ballots.

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Anonymous Lance Weber said...

I love this language: "coiled and hissing in the middle pages of our ballots" - good stuff.

You said "wealthy real estate interests and heavy construction companies" are behind this but I'm scratching my head trying to figure out why you didn't identify any public official as complicit. C.A. 4 wouldn't be on our ballot without help from our legislature. Private interests have the right to be greedy or charitable, but our public servants are supposed to be a firewall between them and the money in our public coffers.

I don't blame the private parties as much as I blame our public servants who are either uninformed, compromised, or simply absent, as in the case of my opponent.

Only one person in Jeff City voted "No" to this. Democrat J.C. Kuessner (minority Floor Leader) was the lone voice in opposition. Why didn't his fellow Democrats follow his lead in opposing this bad piece of legislation?

Senator Justus and her colleagues voted unanimously in support of this "multi-million dollar giveaway."

The House vote was 136 to 1 with the abandoned Kuessner as the sole vote against.

Until we start demanding more accountability from our servants in government, we will continue to be mistreated with deceptive legislation like SJR 45.

Thanks for writing about this - we now agree 2 for 2.

10/15/2008 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think the same "dirt and concrete" interests behind Amendment #4 are behind light rail?

Takes a lot of "dirt and concrete" for light rail. Especially when the city says we don't have enough money to hire police to stem the current murder epidemic.

Maybe the gangs are behind this? They get us to spend all our money on light rail so we can't afford to hire more cops. hm....

10/15/2008 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Levota has a strong connection to heavy construction and concrete business interests. Maybe that is why he made us vote for it.

10/15/2008 3:57 PM  
Blogger ender said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/20/2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

"Remember, being rational is your schtick." Aww, shucks, thank you! That may be the nicest thing anybody has ever written about me!

10/21/2008 7:11 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

How do you know this is true: "to be spent on storm water projects designed to enhance property values of favored interests and generate millions of dollars in revenue for the heavy construction companies that will install those storm sewers?" How do you know that the poorest areas wouldn't receive the benefit of better storm sewers? Who are these favored interests you refer to?


10/27/2008 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This might change your mind.

10/28/2008 10:15 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Not in the slightest. It's a whisper campaign to help heavy construction and developers loot the treasury to the tune of $150 million.

If you want to upgrade storm sewers in a subdivision built in the 70s, tax the homeowners, not me.

10/28/2008 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Miguel said...

I notice the Kansas City Star endorsed CA NO 4. When I add that to your commentary my vote is concreted.

10/30/2008 12:01 PM  
Blogger Sage said...

thanks for the post, got my vote against, I was completely uninformed. THanks again

11/02/2008 8:52 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

I did my best to research this amendment, and was finally persuaded by this post. (That's influence!) Thank you for giving me additional information and food for thought.

11/04/2008 7:37 PM  

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