Voters throughout Missouri will head to the ballot booth on Tuesday, Aug. 5, to decide on a proposed three-fourth-cent sales tax increase. The tax is estimated to raise $5.4 billion during the next decade for transportation work.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the tax question – Amendment 7. In a letter sent Friday to Missouri truckers, the Association cites state lawmakers’ unwillingness or inability to increase the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax for their support.
“Amendment 7 is perhaps the only option that will ensure Missouri roads and bridges, including I-70, won’t be tolled for the next 10 years. For this reason, OOIDA supports Amendment 7.”
If approved by voters, the largest tax increase in the state’s history would kick in starting Jan. 1, 2015. The general sales tax increase wouldn’t be applied to groceries and prescriptions.
About $480 million annually would be used for highways, transit, ports, airports, and bike and walking paths. The remaining $54 million a year would be split between cities and counties for local projects.
Voters would decide in 10 years whether to extend the tax for another decade.
A protection was included in Amendment 7 to prevent revenue from the tax being diverted away from transportation.
State lawmakers would also be prohibited from increasing the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax or charging highway users to drive on existing roadways without voter approval.
Gov. Jay Nixon opposes the amendment. In a recent statement he acknowledged the state’s “long-term transportation infrastructure needs.” However, he said the tax “would fall disproportionately on Missouri’s working families and seniors … while giving the heaviest users of our roads a free pass.”
Missouri voters haven’t approved a statewide sales tax increase since 1993. A tax for roads hasn’t been approved since 1992.
Advocates for Amendment 7 say something needs to be done to help the Missouri Department of Transportation address an approaching funding cliff.
MoDOT Director Dave Nichols has referred to the state’s construction budget for roads and bridges that has fallen from about $1.3 billion annually in 2010 to $685 million this year.
He added that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The annual budget is projected to dip to $325 million by 2017 – the lowest since 1992.
The agency has released a list of projects that could be funded if voters approve the tax increase. The widening of Interstate 70 from four to six lanes is the most expensive item on the list at $500 million. The rest of the $1.5 billion cost would come from bonds.