Post-Dispatch: Tour of Missouri gets support of tourism commission

By Tony Messenger
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY — The Tour of Missouri is likely to roll on in September, but a dispute over how state money is spent to support the September bike race is simmering beneath the surface.

Today, the Missouri Tourism Commission voted 7-0 to make cuts elsewhere in its budget rather than to sacrifice the $1.5 million dedicated to the tour. Commission members said the race is too important to economic development in the state, and it’s too close to its start, to cancel it now.

Ultimately, the question over whether to cancel the race belongs with the Tour of Missouri, Inc., a non-profit organization set up by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to run the bike race. It’s the non-profit, and not the state, that has contracts to produce the race, and officials from the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon want to know how the money is being spent.

Earlier this week, Nixon budget director Linda Luebbering told tourism director Bob Smith that the state would not approve the $1.5 million payment to Tour of Missouri, Inc. And in a memo to Luebbering, economic development director Linda Martinez recommended that the funding be cut from the budget.

Nixon is facing a budget shortfall because of declining state revenue and he’s asked every state department to propose millions of dollars in cuts.

When the memo was made public, Kinder and others began a full-fledged public relations campaign to convince Nixon to keep the Tour of Missouri money in the budget. Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti said the decision hasn’t been made yet.

On a conference call today during a tourism commission meeting, one of Martinez; deputies, Katie Steele Danner, told the commission that the governor’s office is seeking more information on the Tour of Missouri contracts before it approves the money.

“I am very interested in getting the information from you to help me make your case,” Danner said. Both she and her husband, Adjutant General Steve Danner of the Missouri National Guard, volunteered on the first race three years ago. “I’m just trying to get my arms around the structure of this,” Danner said.

Kinder and other commission members, including state Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, said the race is too important to cancel.

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