In Missouri the answer to that question seems to be that if exiting Republicans can’t follow the example of soon-to-be ex-Governor Mat Blunt and secure lucrative sinecures in the private sector, they just might remain to haunt the legislature. Take, for instance, the case of Neil St. Onge, the term-limited Chairman of the House Transportation Committee who failed in his bid for the 7th District State Senate seat that went to “Crazy Jane” Cunningham.
According to the Columbia Tribune, St. Onge, with a little help from pals in the legislature, managed to name himself
… to the top staff job on a legislative committee he co-chairs. The job, inspector general of transportation, pays about $60,000 annually but has not been filled for the past three years. … .
That St. Onge himself, as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, left this position unfilled for the last three years is somewhat perplexing given his eagerness to fill it now that he is on his way out. The other co-chair, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, is so emphatic that it no longer needs to be filled that he has responded to St. Onge’s appointment by filing a bill to abolish the position.
St. Onge claims that the infrastructure spending promised by the Obama stimulus package will create a need for “additional” oversight that this postion could provide. (You can hear him discuss his appointment in greater detail on St. Louis’ KMOX radio here)
However, even in this future context, as the Columbia Tribune points out, there seems to be some evidence for Stauffer’s claims that the position duplicates existing State positions:
The transportation department’s staff audits contractors who work with the agency, a spokeswoman said. The department hires a private firm to conduct annual financial audits. And the state auditor checks into federal funds that are expended by state agencies each year.
So what, you may be inclined to say, just one more case of a little political back-scratching on the public tab, nothing new and fairly penny-ante in the scheme of things. But there is a further question, and that is, based on what we know about St. Onge, do we really want him hanging around and putting in his two-cents on transportation issues?
According to Missourians for Tax Justice (MTJ), in a November 2007 report, governmental planning for Missouri’s transportation future, led by St.Onge, Stauffer and Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation:
is centered entirely on highways. This follows the usual pattern of neglect of all other forms of public transportation
St. Onge is friendly to the idea of toll roads, but bows to the political reality that it is “politically unfeasible to install toll ways.” Instead, he has embraced sales taxes of all stripes. St. Onge has proposed raising car and truck license fees, gas and diesel taxes and sales taxes, specifically to fund improvements to I-70. Although there might be other arguments for gas taxes, this approach is ultimately one that puts greater onus on poorer citizens to fund the building of roads.
St. Onge is also itching to privatize transportation infrastructure. The Vice-Chair of the MTJ, Barbara Ross, noted that at a July 2007 meeting of the Joint Transportation Committee, which St. Onge co-chairs, “privatization and toll roads” were the only financing options considered.
So think about it. The guy with a vision for Missouri transportation that is left over from 1955 (and it was wrong-headed then), manfully grappling with ways to fund public resources by means of regressive, back-door taxes or by simply selling them off to private bidders, will get the job of exercising just one little soupcon more of “oversight” over transportation infrastructure projects. It must be great to be a Republican in Missouri.