Mo' money for Missouri roads?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/22/2017

Talks continue in Missouri for a solution to the state’s nearly one-half of a billion dollars in annual road and bridge funding needs.

A 23-member task force of state officials and private citizens is working on a list of transportation funding recommendations to submit to the Missouri General Assembly by Jan. 1. The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force was formed this year via legislation approved by state lawmakers.

The group also is evaluating the condition of roads and bridges. 

Among options on the table to benefit transportation:

  • raising the state’s fuel tax and/or sales tax rates,
  • tolls,
  • implementing a vehicle-miles traveled mechanism,
  • rerouting revenue from the state’s general fund, and
  • raising vehicle fees.

The Show-Me State collects a 17-cent-per-gallon tax on gas and diesel fuel. The current tax rate, which is fourth lowest nationally, has remained unchanged since 1996.

Advocates for a fuel tax increase point out that since the state’s last increase the fuel tax inflation has risen by more than two-thirds. As a result, the 17-cent tax has the buying power of about 8 cents in 1996 money.

Critics say the fuel tax is a dying tax. They cite a growing popularity of electric vehicles and others with more fuel-efficient engines.

Supporters say even if everyone converted to electric vehicles it would take decades to reach that point. In the meantime, the state needs money now to address long overdue needs for the nation’s seventh-largest state highway system.

Each penny increase in the excise tax is estimated to raise up to $40 million. An increase in excess of 10 cents would be necessary to address the $470 million annually the Missouri Department of Transportation says is needed to maintain roads and bridges and for major interstate reconstruction.

Sen. Doug Libla, R-Popular Bluff, advocates for a fuel tax increase to adequately address the state’s transportation needs. He sponsored a failed bill during the 2016 regular session to raise the excise tax by nearly 6 cents.

Libla has said the fuel tax is a more realistic option to pay for infrastructure work than authorization for public-private partnerships.

Truck groups in the state support efforts to raise revenue for transportation work. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Missouri Trucking Association say it is imperative that truckers are not called on to foot more of the responsibility to help bail the state out of its funding hole.

OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek has said the Association believes increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable way to generate additional revenue. He has also said a fuel tax increase is the only realistic option for the state.

Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, serves on the task force. He has indicated support for putting a fuel tax increase on the 2018 statewide fall ballot.

The state’s Hancock Amendment mandates that any proposed rate hike in excess of two cents must go before voters for final approval. A similar requirement is in place for efforts to add tolls.




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