UPDATED: News-Leader: Governor considering $1.5 million cut to Tour of Missouri

Governor considering $1.5 million cut to Tour of Missouri
By Chad Livengood
Springfield News-Leader

Gov. Jay Nixon's Department of Economic Development has proposed cutting a $1.5 million subsidy to the Tour of Missouri bicycle race — less than two months before the statewide sports event is set to begin.

The cut would lead to the third annual Tour of Missouri being called off, said organizer Chris Aronhalt, a managing partner of Atlanta-based Medalist Sports.

It’s devastating to learn of this because ewe’re really at that no turning back point," Aronhalt told the News-Leader. “The timing is terrible."

Medalist Sports manages the race under contract with the Tour of Missouri Inc., a nonprofit organization set up by the state.

The race, which is scheduled for Sept. 7-13, costs $3.3 million to put on.Aronhalt said canceling the race would still leave the state on the hook for hundreds of thousands in bills for contracts that have already been signed.

Plus, race teams and thousands of spectators have already booked airfare and hotel rooms for the 12-city race, which will not include Springfield this year.

Linda Martinez, director of the Department of Economic Development, sent Nixon's budget director a letter on Tuesday recommending a specific $1.5 million cut to the Division of Tourism's support of the Tour of Missouri, according to a copy of the memo obtained by the News-Leader.

Martinez's recommendation was sent to state Budget Director Linda Luebbering who is compiling $60 million in additional budget cuts to the state's $23 billion budget for the 2010 fiscal year, which began July 1, Nixon said.

At a bill signing ceremony in Springfield on Thursday, Nixon said "no specific decisions have been made.

"The proposed $1.5 milion cut would be part of $9.9 million in reductions Martinez is proposing for her department.

She also proposes cutting workforce development by $1.1 million, a technology investment fund by $435,269 and more than $1 million from the Missouri Arts Council.

In total, Martinez has proposed about $5.1 million in cuts, but will come up with an additional $4.8 million in cuts in the coming weeks, Luebbering said.

In April, the Missouri Tourism Commission voted to spend $1.5 million on the Tour of Missouri, which in its third year has been led by Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who chairs the panel.

Luebbering said canceling the bicycle race wouldn't be unusual. Last November, Georgia canceled its Tour de Georgia to save money as tax dollars dwindle in the widening economic recession, she said.

“It’s a pretty bleak budget year and lots of states are looking at options like this,” Luebbering said in a phone interview.

Luebbering said the Tour of Missouri cut is not final. It needs Nixon's approval first.

A final recommendation to the governor is not expected for a couple of weeks, she said.


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