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Politically Speaking: Sen. Kehoe on transportation, unemployment benefits and his political future

This week’s edition of the Politically Speaking podcast has a mid-Missouri flair to it – primarily because St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are welcoming state Sen. Mike Kehoe to the show.

The Jefferson City Republican is a north St. Louis native, and a graduate of Chaminade. His family was close with Dave Sinclair, another north St. Louis native who established one of the most successful car dealerships in the state. Kehoe became a household name in Columbia and Jefferson City through his car dealerships -- the type of name recognition that likely helped him win a contest GOP primary for the state Senate in 2010.

Since winning election to the Senate, Kehoe has been a major figure in the debate over funding the state’s transportation infrastructure. In the Senate, he handled the constitutional amendment that would have raised the state’s sales tax for transportation – an effort that failed badly last August. He’s also sponsored legislation to reduce the number of weeks somebody could receive unemployment – a measure that didn’t survive a veto override last year but could face a better reception this time around.

Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

During the show, Kehoe said:

  • Even though the so-called “transportation sales tax” failed, there’s still a big need to find a new funding source. Figuring out whether that’s a gas tax increase, tolling or something else is tricky.
  • A 2004 bonding initiative for road repair made it tougher to convince voters to spend more on highways. “Now when you go to Missourians and say ‘we have a transportation problem,’ they say ‘the road I just drove on is pretty smooth,” he said.
  • The unemployed can still get aid if the state provides only 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. “You still qualify for federal unemployment,” Kehoe said. “And that’s as much as 50 weeks.” (State Labor Department officials says there's been no federal benefits for Missourians since the end of 2013, because Congress did not extend the program.)
  • He hasn’t made any decisions about running for a statewide office next year. Kehoe is also seen a possible contender for the state’s 3rd congressional district if U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, runs for a different office.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Sen. Kehoe is not on Twitter, but he is on Facebook.

Music: "Even Rats" by The Slip

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.