Missouri ballot issue limits diversion of highway funds

| 8/2/2004

Voters in Missouri will decide Nov. 2 whether to change their state’s constitution to limit the transfer of some highway funds to other state agencies.

Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt certified the measure for the ballot last week.

The Committee to Improve Missouri’s Roads and Bridges had delivered petitions on the measure to the secretary of state containing nearly 200,000 signatures in April. Blunt’s office verified almost 156,000 as valid registered voters – well more than the 121,302 needed to put the question on the ballot.

The issue of “diversion” of highway user fees – vehicle and driver’s license fees, motor fuel taxes and vehicle sales taxes – has been a hot topic in recent years.

Some lawmakers and business groups say voters are fed up that all the money they pay doesn’t go directly into repairing or expanding Missouri highways, The Associated Press reported.

According to the news agency, the Missouri Department of Transportation receives only 55 cents of every $1 it collects in state highway user fees and taxes.

A significant share of the money goes to city and county roads, but some is transferred to agencies that carry out road-related tasks.

The proposed constitutional amendment would phase out the transfer of funds to some agencies over four years. In addition, legislators eventually would need to either cut the budgets of agencies that lost funding or come up with other sources to replace the revenue previously received from road-related taxes.