Supporters of the Tour of Missouri are lobbying the state legislature, governor and public to restore funding for the three-year-old race, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 6.
Missouri like many states is facing a budget crisis. In the Show Me State, Gov. Jay Nixon announced earlier this month that $500 million needs to be cut from this year’s budget because of lower-than-expected tax revenue. The state’s tourism department, which had been providing the bulk of the support for the race — some $5 million over the three editions — has not included the race in its next budget.
So supporters are launching a promotional campaign to restore at least $1 million in state funding, arguing that the race produces economic impact many times that. They also say that state support — even at a much lower rate than in previous years — is key to getting matching private sponsorship.
“It’s a tough budget year for all of us,” said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. “We are arguing that the (race) budget should be cut and cut deep and hard. But there is a difference between cutting and eliminating. Eliminating the race is just silly.”
State support is key to leveraging private sponsorship and in cutting red tape to allow a major race to take over roads and city centers around the state for a week.
Hugh said that economic studies have shown that state sales tax returns generated by the race more than make up for the state funding, and its annual economic impact is about $40 million.
The campaign is urging race supporters to: contact Missouri lawmakers, including Nixon; to join the race’s Facebook page and post comments there in support of the race; and to donate cash directly to support the race. The race’s Web site will be set up Friday to accept donations.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, long a staunch supporter of the race, is now distancing himself from it, said Mike Weiss, president of the Missouri Bicycle Racing Association and a member of the race’s board of directors. Kinder, a Republican, is likely to challenge Nixon in the next election. The race had become a political football, and supporters are betting that de-politicizing it will increase the likelihood of getting state support. Kinder is not named in a press release about the lobbying campaign, and his office is not involved in producing the race this year.
Instead, the racing association and the bicycle federation are leading the charge. Hugh said lawmakers in both chambers of the Republican-controlled legislature support the race. However, Missouri’s governor has a line-item veto, so ultimately Nixon decides whether the state supports the race, and likely, whether the race will happen this year.