Monday, November 23, 2009

Dixon Dodges Sales Tax Question At Firefighter Endorsement



Republican State Senate candidate Bob Dixon declined to say whether he voted to raise Springfield's sales tax to help fund the pensions of firefighters, on the same day he received the endorsement of the city's local firefighter union.

Dixon, who scheduled an early Monday morning press conference with Springfield Firefighters Local 152 just hours before his Democratic opponent planned to kick off his campaign, said he did vote on the pension sales tax, which passed overwhelmingly earlier this month.

But three different times, he dodged questions about how he voted, saying it was a decision for the voters of Springfield. Watch the video ABOVE.

"I did vote in the privacy of the voting booth but I did not ask people to vote a certain way," said Dixon, who currently represents the #140th State House District. "I left that decision up to the voters, and I do respect their decision."

Dixon's decision to decline a public position on the sales tax allows him to avoid offending portions of his campaign coalition, which includes firefighters and anti-tax conservatives.

For instance, both firefighter union president Shawn Martin and vocal pension sales tax opponent Fred Ellison stood behind Dixon at his campaign announcement Monday. But Martin and Ellison were on opposite sides of the tax issue.

Martin said he did not know how Dixon voted on the pension tax.

"I have not asked him officially," Martin said in an interview.

"What is more important is where an individual stands as far as getting people to vote," he added. "If he had stood up there and advocated for the tax great. If he had stood up there and advocated against it, that's something else."

UPDATED 5:41 PM: The Greene County Democratic Party accused Dixon of having it both ways. "Rep. Dixon needs to answer this question. He’s trying to have it both ways. We do not need someone in Jefferson City who straddles the proverbial fence and politically calculates their every move, we need a decisive leader for Springfield," said Greene County Democratic Executive Director Matthew Patterson.

Martin said his union decided to endorse Dixon because he's a "longtime friend," who stood up to city leaders when some were reluctant to address the pension shortfall.

Dixon was one of the local lawmakers who helped champion state legislation that required the city address the pension funding problem. "It also offered them the ability to choose whether or not they wanted a tax, and the voters decided that they did," Martin said.

Dixon also won the backing of the Missouri State Council of Firefighters, and thanks both groups for their support in his campaign against Democrat Michael Hoeman.

"I cannot think of any other group that I'd rather have in there with me than the firefighters," Dixon said to cheers.

He said he hoped for a "friendly and respectful" dialogue about the issues with Hoeman, a Springfield school board member and local physician.

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