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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tour of Missouri in peril

UPDATED 7:30 P.M. CDT: Several sources – the Springfield News-Leader, the new Save the Tour of Missouri blog and The Associated Press – are reporting that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is considering cutting $1.5 million in state funding for the 2009 Tour of Missouri.

If the money is indeed cut, it would in effect kill the race for this year.

Nixon's Department of Economic Development has proposed cutting the $1.5 million subsidy to the Tour of Missouri — less than two months before the statewide sporting event is set to begin.

In April, the Missouri Tourism Commission voted to spend $1.5 million on the Tour of Missouri. The Tour of Missouri's top backer in state government is Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who chairs the panel. Nixon is a Democrat.

"The governor supports the race, just like he supports a lot of things that are going to be recommended to be cut," Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti told the AP. "The question is whether or not in these financial times the taxpayers can continue to pick up the tab for things like the Tour of Missouri."

The cut would lead to the third annual Tour of Missouri being called off, organizer Chris Aronhalt, a managing partner of Atlanta-based Medalist Sports, told the News-Leader. "It’s devastating to learn of this because we’re really at that no turning back point," Aronhalt said. “The timing is terrible."

Above is a copy of a memo obtained by the Save the Tour of Missouri blog. It details the proposed cut for the Tour of Missouri and other projects proposed Linda Martinez, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. Like other states, Missouri is having to cut programs or raise taxes to overcome budget shortfalls.

Here's a letter sent by Kinder to people on the Tour of Missouri mailing list, urging them to express their support for the Tour of Missouri:


By now, some of you may have heard rumors regarding Gov. Nixon freezing state funds for the 2009 Tour of Missouri. I would like to share with you the details that we currently have:

On Wednesday, at the close of business, I was informed by the Division of Tourism that the money set aside for the Tour of Missouri was frozen by Gov. Nixon's administration. The state's commitment for the 2009 Tour of Missouri was $1.5 million. Without these funds, which are available and approved by the Tourism Commission, the Tour of Missouri will cease to exist.

At this time, I have requested a special meeting of the Missouri Tourism Commission to evaluate our options and decide what our next step should be.

As you know, we are very close to putting the final touches on the race this year. Our sponsors have invested and we are on track with our fundraising goals. Teams from across the world, the same teams now racing in the Tour de France, have been invited to our state, and communities across Missouri are making great preparations for the race. Contracts have been signed by the state, cities, sponsors and vendors and cutting this funding will leave the state susceptible to wasteful litigation.

Right now, I am urging cycling fans across our great state, and around the world to contact Gov. Jay Nixon at 573-751-3222 and tell him to release the funding for the largest sporting event ever held in our state.

I am grateful for the supporters, sponsors, volunteers and spectators who in the past two years have helped generate nearly $60 million in economic impact for our state, and brought over 800,000 visitors to the race.

With your help, I truly believe we can ensure the survival and success of the 2009 Tour of Missouri.

Lt. Governor, Chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission

Call Gov. Jay Nixon at 573-751-3222 and tell him to save our race!

In a note to Facebook fans of Missouri Bicycle Federation, Executive Director Brent Hugh is calling on folks to call Nixon's office and tell him to "Save the Tour of Missouri!"

Not surprisingly, the Fired Up! Missouri blog — a frequent critic of the Tour of Missouri – thinks cutting the money from the budget would be a good thing: "It's time for race promoter and alleged fiscal hawk Peter 'Every Dollar Counts' Kinder to do what he should have done from the beginning raise money for an 'elite bike race' from elite private donors. Last year, Kinder raised and spent over $3 million for personal political pursuits. If he can do it for himself, why can't he do it for taxpayers?"


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