St. Joseph News-Press: Tour goes into a skid

Our heart says to spend the money needed to keep the Tour of Missouri rolling through Northwest Missouri this September.

Our head says it’s wise to explore other options if this is going to be a $1.5 million drain on the state treasury.

It’s not comforting to know the state Department of Economic Development is the agency recommending eliminating the funding — amounting to 46 percent of the total $3.3 million tour budget. Agencies were asked to identify possible budget cuts, and the one most responsible for boosting the state’s economy put the competitive cycling event on the chopping block.

As supporters circle the wagons, we note one of their best arguments presumably is that last year’s event produced an estimated $29.8 million economic impact for the state. They have to wonder what part of that is not understood by the folks at economic development.

We suspect the problem is not one of trusting the numbers but rather one of setting priorities for cash outlays at a time when tax revenues are down.

It could be the agency has other projects in mind that could produce higher or more-direct returns to the state government. It could be the agency recommends this cut as the best of several bad choices, and for whatever reason is reluctant to cut something else. It could be someone thinks the “bike people” simply can go get another sponsor or two and save the taxpayers their portion.

Timing of the tour — less than 60 days away — requires that Gov. Jay Nixon’s office complete its assessment promptly. The notion of “weeks” until a decision is rendered very likely could force the tour to fold, as did the Tour of Georgia race after it could not find a title sponsor.

We think it highly unlikely that other large sponsors are waiting in the wings for their names to be called.

More likely, Gov. Nixon will need to decide, in partnership with the Missouri Tourism Commission and other interested parties, just what it is worth to host an international sporting event that has the potential for future growth.

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