I-66 study, town notes, death tax

Friday, June 14, 2002

The CAPE CHAMBER'S Transportation Committee has recommended that the city council donate $8,000 for the hiring of a consultant to do the analysis to support the continuation of a Cape route for the TRANSAMERICA CORRIDOR to come through Cape via the BILL EMERSON MEMORIAL BRIDGE. (This is currently in federal government language in the transportation bill up for review.)

Similar requests have been made of the Cape Girardeau County Commission and the city of Jackson. The remaining $6,000 will be requested from the Cape Girardeau County Industrial Development Authority. The 50 percent balance of the consultant's $60,000 fee will be paid by "interested citizens."

This area already has an estimated investment of over $200,000 in this I-66 concept that would route a four-lane road across Southern Illinois to the Emerson bridge.

The route possibly would connect to U.S. 60 going west. U.S. 60 is going to be four lanes to Springfield, Mo., in an estimated 10 years or less.

I say invest the money but request that the consultant's analysis provide cost estimates for the route and for a suggested alternate from Paducah to Wickliffe, Ky., which would require a new Mississippi River bridge.

I've yet to see figures, although the speculation ranges from $300 million-plus for another interstate bridge.

The current lack of enthusiasm from Illinois officials plus the environmentalists and total costs all need to be weighed against the area benefits ... which the consultant LONNIE HAEFNER has the experience to document (though I don't expect to see such a route during my lifetime).

Cape Girardeau ... not just Southeast Missouri State University ... will lose one of its people assets when PETER BERGERSON moves to Florida and continues his teaching, student encouragement and community participation as a political commentator and panel moderator.

A respected, objective thinker and a friend ... we will miss him and wonder who will replace him ... as we all are eventually replaced.

We welcome the Missouri Division of Youth Services board to Cape this week. This is one of the many state agencies that monitors, reviews and makes recommendations regarding the services provided to the youth of our state.

LaCroix United Methodist Church took another giant step Monday night when it voted a $6 million-plus expansion including a 914-seat sanctuary to be added to its existing facility on Lexington Avenue. Groundbreaking is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.

I've been taking advantage of the 24-hour RHODES 101 Stop convenience store on North Sprigg across from the Show Me Center. They really get a lot of traffic starting at 5:30 a.m.

I would like to extend a special welcome to the advertising directors from several of our Rust newspapers who are in Cape for a few days sharing their ideas, problems and solutions with each other. This will be the first trip to Cape for many of them, and it is always a pleasure to share our community and its assets with our fellow associates.

The death-tax senators: We are about to find out how many of the 12 Senate Democrats who voted for tax cuts last year really meant it. They'll get the chance to prove their sincerity when the Senate takes up a vote to make repeal of the death tax permanent, perhaps this month. Last Thursday, 41 of their Democratic counterparts in the House joined the 256-171 vote to make this punitive tax disappear forever.

Majority leader Tom Daschle first tried to forestall a Senate vote, because he knows a clear majority favors passage there too. But he was forced to give in recently in return for some concessions on the energy bill. So now he's trying to hold off Senate passage with a filibuster that requires 60 votes before it can get to President Bush's desk. Supporters of permanent repeal figure they have at least 58 votes, and Daschle has been twisting arms to block what is the will of many even within his own party.

One vote still in the balance is Missouri's Jean Carnahan. She faces a strong challenge this fall from Republican Jim Talent, who has made the death tax a central issue in his campaign. She's doing a remarkable dodge and weave, claiming to favor repeal for small businesses and farms but she is undecided on the repeal that passed the house. Sounds to us as if she's waiting for orders from Daschle. If he doesn't need her for his filibuster, he'll give her a pass to vote yes and remove the issue for November.

One virtue of this death-tax debate is that it reveals what's really at stake in this November's Senate races. If Daschle retains his Democratic majority, further tax cutting is dead. But if Republicans pick up a mere one seat, for a 50-50 split, they'll be able to organize the Senate with the help of Vice President Cheney's vote and tax-cutting becomes possible again.

This is crazy tax policy, since it increases uncertainty and would amount to the largest tax increase in history in 2010 if the law isn't changed. -- Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal

(The Senate voted 54-44 Wednesday against permanent repeal of the estate tax. U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri voted with the Democratic majority.)

Estate-tax issue won't go away even if Senate quashes the bill: A dozen Democrats supported last year's tax bill, which included across-the-board marginal rate reductions for individuals. But at least half of them now say they prefer to reform the tax, not repeal it. One alternative, expected to be offered as an amendment, would permanently freeze the estate-tax exemption at $4 million while retaining a top rate of 50 percent.

It is a sign of how drastically the fiscal picture has changed in the past year that even some Democrats who supported the 2001 bill and who are considered vulnerable in November have crossed over to the reform camp. The long-term costs of repeal are huge, and, Democrats say, they could threaten Social Security and Medicare-much bigger voter priorities.

One such Democrat is Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri, who faces a tight race with former GOP Rep. Jim Talent in November. Carnahan backs the $4 million exemption, which she says would eliminate the tax for virtually all farmers and family-owned businesses.

Republicans would like to make permanent all of last year's reductions, but they have singled out the estate tax because they say the expiration creates long-term planning problems. -- From an article in The Wall Street Journal

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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