MO: Dooley Downplays Proposed Transportation sales Tax

May 28--UPDATED at 7:20 p.m. with reaction from County Executive candidate Steve Stenger

CLAYTON -- A statewide ballot initiative Missouri voters to approve a transportation sales tax has drawn fire from St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Dooley criticized the Missouri General Assembly and Gov. Jay Nixon for pushing the sales tax while allowing other issues, such as Medicaid expansion and aid to public education, to languish.

"I can understand why it's on the ballot, however I believe the greater challenge lies in addressing the significant problems we face with our schools and the need to provide access to healthcare for the people in this state who fall through the cracks; that is what the state legislature should be addressing," the statement said.

The proposed constitutional amendment to add three-quarters-of-a-cent to the sales tax will appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot -- the same day county Democrats will choose Dooley or County Councilman Steve Stenger as the party's nominee for county executive in the November general election.

Stenger on Tuesday night accused Dooley of flip-flopping on the transportation tax issue after the county executive last week told St. Louis Public Radio reporter Jason Rosenbaum that he fully supported the measure.

Voicing full support for the initiative, Stenger said he found it "befuddling" that Dooley now appears to be lukewarm about a revenue source with the potential to provide upgrades to county roads and bridges.

"For the county executive not to support this whole-heartedly is troubling," Stenger told reporters following the Tuesday night County Council meeting.

The county councilman said he is also concerned that Dooley's position will put the county in an awkward position when transportation projects come before the East West Gateway Council of Governments.

The sales tax increase, if approved, would funnel more than $500 million into road and other transportation projects from 2015 until 2025.

It would be the first statewide tax increase in 22 years.

General assignment reporter Steve Giegerich covers St. Louis County. On Twitter @stevegiegerich

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