Stadium funding plan runs into roadblock

Friday, May 17, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A bill providing state money to stadiums in St. Louis and Kansas City ran into big trouble Thursday when a lone lawmaker used her authority to try to block the bill.

Hours later, St. Louis' mayor declared that "I'm hoping for some legislative lightning to hit the Capitol dome."

The stadium legislation, which already has passed the Senate, received a hearing before the House Fiscal Review Committee, which must clear all bills with a cost.

But chairwoman Kate Hollingsworth, D-Imperial, tried to adjourn the meeting without a vote and hurried out of the room. After she left, fellow committee members voted not to adjourn, then voted 5-3 to send the stadium bill back to the House floor for debate.

But the committee vote may not hold up. As committee chairwoman, Hollingsworth must physically turn in the bill to House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, in order for it to receive House debate.

Hollingsworth said she was not inclined to release the bill yet and was concerned about its future cost to taxpayers.

In St. Louis later Thursday, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay called the measure's chances "dimmer and dimmer" as the Legislature's 6 p.m today adjournment approaches.

"We're not going to give up hope for this legislative session," Slay told reporters, suggesting that the Legislature's failure to pass the measure would produce "stiff competition" -- likely from Illinois -- to lure the Cardinals out of downtown St. Louis.

Thursday evening, some legislative supporters of the stadium bill were developing a plan to try to tack it onto a separate piece of legislation as an amendment.

The stadium plan would authorize the state to spend $644 million over three decades, with the biggest bulk benefitting the Cardinals, Chiefs and Royals. Some of that money also would go to the Savvis Center in St. Louis and developments in Branson and Springfield.

State funding for the major projects would start in July 2005.

Even then, supporters say the projects would return more to the state in new taxes than the state provides in subsidies.

But Hollingsworth said she was not convinced.

By House rules, the committee only considered the bill's financial impact for the next three fiscal years, which is minimal. Hollingsworth said she wants to examine the bill's long-term effect

"I am not going to send out a bill that's potentially costing millions of dollars to the taxpayers of the state of Missouri without a full review of that," Hollingsworth said in an interview.

Rep. Dennis Bonner chased Hollingsworth out the back door of the committee room, saying she had no authority to adjourn the meeting. When Bonner returned, vice chairwoman Yvonne Wilson, D-Kansas City, continued the meeting and allowed a vote on the bill.

Bonner, D-Independence, said Hollingsworth "was trying to kill the bill using dictator-style tactics."

Kreider, who has remained lukewarm to the stadium plan, said he supported Hollingsworth. As speaker, Kreider has power to place bills on the debate calendar and rule out of order proposed amendments to bills.

Kreider said the stadium bill is near the bottom of his list of priorities for Friday -- after passage of revenue bills to fund education and balance the budget, and after passage of a transportation tax plan.

"We're not going to go addressing stadiums when we haven't done our basic duties," Kreider said.

Jim Russell, a stadium supporter and lobbyist for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, compared the bill's chances to his ability to hit a baseball through a four-inch-square hole while facing a Major League pitcher.

"That would be remarkable -- but you have a chance," Russell said.

Slay said his office has been in contact with Holden's office about including the stadium legislation in a potential special session, but no promises have been made by the governor's staff.

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Stadium bill is HB1279 (Kinder).

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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