KC Star: Consideration to cut funds of Tour of Missouri is purely political

The Kansas City Star

News that budget cuts might cancel the upcoming Tour of Missouri raised even the least politically savvy of eyebrows. Nothing figured.

With less than two months before the start of the seven-day, cross-state tour of elite cyclists, why would the tour even be considered for budget cutting?

The suggestion is akin to canceling a fundraiser that’s been in the works for a year a few hours before the event.

If the cyclists end up not spinning through Missouri, the reason will have little to do with cost savings.

This has to be politics, plain and simple. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s weak attempt to jab a political rival, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, is stamped on behind-the-scenes maneuvers. Kinder, a Republican, has long latched his image to the race, which is in its third year.

Surely there are other political arenas where Nixon and Kinder can joust.

The governor’s office is holding to the idea that canceling the Tour of Missouri is about putting finite resources in lean times toward finding Missourians jobs. He’s banking that the rationale will be swallowed by a gullible public.

Fine if the target were a distant, still-in-the-planning-stages quilting exposition, something without the star power of the tour and without Kinder’s thumbprint.

But we’re talking Lance Armstrong here. The event would bring Armstrong’s team and others now cycling in the Tour de France to Missouri. That’s international exposure and millions in revenues that Missouri could never afford to entice, even in booming budget years.

Nixon’s request for departments to identify budget trims is understandable. The Missouri Tourism Commission, of which Kinder is chairman, complied by hacking $5.7 million, mostly from advertising. Then it was told that only about $2.7 million was necessary. Better yet. The commission was ahead of the game.

But last week, the commission’s funds were frozen. Every dime would have to meet the approval of higher-ups. A memo from the Department of Economic Development had the Tour of Missouri already on the chopping block for a savings of $1.5 million.

Do the math. Estimates are the tour will garner at least $30 million from spectators. And that is money to be pocketed by businesses across the state as the riders wind through cities rural and urban on a more than 600-mile route. Impossible to calculate is the image boost.

Much of the world still hears “Missouri” and envisions cows and bib overalls. We don’t need to be known for a last-minute cancellation of an internationally recognized event.

Politicos of all parties are equal-opportunity offenders. They like to tout the public good will, preen about the welfare of the masses being their driving force.

That so? Prove it. Get this race back on the road.

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