Gov. Nixon vetoes MoDOT funding over agency's lobbying activities

Governor Nixon recently took the very unusual step of line-item vetoing a portion of MoDOT's funding because of MoDOT's lobbying on the motorcycle helmet repeal this year.

Governor Nixon has said, "Taxpayers are darn sick and tired of people spending public money to lobby public officials like that."

Missouri legislators agree with Governor Nixon's assessment.

According to a recent poll of MoBikeFed members and supporters
, you do, too:

  • Over 85% of respondents believe MoDOT should be restricted in lobbying legislators
  • Oover 80% believe this type of political lobbying undermines MoDOT's credibility as an unbiased source of accurate information

Interestingly, after the strong statement of disapproval for MoDOT's lobbying on the issue, Governor Nixon ended up vetoing the motorcycle helmet repeal--meaning that the Governor agrees with MoDOT's position but disagrees with the way they have used taxpayer money to lobby on the issue.

That is just not an appropriate role for a taxpayer funded agency.

Governor Nixon issued a detailed statement giving reasons for vetoing the helmet bill.

If MoDOT had restricted itself to simply providing accurate technical information on this issue--the type of information Governor Nixon gave in his veto letter--it would have helped build the agency's credibility as an accurate and reliable source of information on transportation issues.

It is when MoDOT steps out of the role of information provider and into the role of lobbying and PR firm that elected officials and the public feel very uncomfortable.

When an agency with a multi-billion dollar budget uses taxpayer funds to lobby against grass-roots citizen organizations with practically no budget at all, it just doesn't seem fair--or in the public interest.

More details about the line-item veto of MoDOT funds, from the AP article:

Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed money for the Missouri Department of Transportation in retaliation for a publicly financed lobbying effort against a bill relaxing Missouri's motorcycle helmet mandate.

The department recently spent about $33,000 on a public-opinion poll showing that a majority of respondents favor an existing state law requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

Department director Pete Rahn cited the poll during a news conference outside a hospital emergency room last month while urging Nixon to veto a bill allowing people age 21 and older to ride helmet-free on all Missouri roads except interstate highways.

On Thursday, Nixon vetoed $33,000 from the transportation department's administrative budget for expenses and equipment during fiscal year that starts next Wednesday. The Democratic governor said in a written veto message that the cut was "due to administrative inefficiencies."

Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti confirmed Friday that the veto was in response to the poll on the motorcycle helmet law, which was funded from Missouri's share of federal highway safety money.

"The governor thought that political polling was a waste of taxpayers' dollars and therefor he took it out of their administrative budget for next year," Cardetti said.

See MoBikeFed's previous discussion of the issue of MoDOT lobbying.

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