Missouri study suggests sales tax boost for roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/10/2013

A special panel created to look into Missouri’s transportation funding needs released their report Tuesday, Jan. 8, for how to address an estimated $600 million to $1 billion annual shortfall. Voters would get the final say.

The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee released their final report on the eve of the start of the regular session. The group met for several months and discussed possible funding methods that include increasing the fuel tax rate, raising the state sales tax, creating toll taxes, or bonding.

The 22-member panel was led by former House Speaker Rod Jetton. He said that the state is moving into an era where lawmakers need to take a long look at some options to raise revenue for roads.

“Better infrastructure is going to get people to and from work and it will help attract companies that are going to help our economy,” Jetton said at a Tuesday news conference.

Panelists stopped short of recommending specific changes. However, they found that a 20- to 30-cent-per-gallon fuel tax would be needed to fill the funding gap.

Missouri is responsible for the seventh largest road system and the state has the sixth-lowest fuel tax rate in the nation – 17 cents per gallon. The tax was last raised in 1992.

The panel found that the fuel tax will be less reliable in the future because it has not kept up with rising costs for road and bridge work. They also cited more fuel-efficient vehicles for reduced revenue through fuel taxes.

Another option that would raise about the same amount of money would be a one-cent sales tax on fuel purchases.

The report states that a sales tax is “broad based and has significant revenue generating capability.” It would also keep up with inflation.

Tolling was mentioned as a “viable option” for certain roadways, such as Interstates 70 and 44. However, the group determined that toll taxes would not cover other transportation funding issues.

The report now goes to members of the House and Senate transportation committees for review. They can then decide whether to pursue any of the suggestions.

Current House Speaker Tim Jones said that Missourians are relying on lawmakers to come up with a viable option to address transportation. He described transportation as a critical component to the state’s economy.

“The lifeblood of our economic system is transportation,” Jones said. “It is one of those key components that we need to invest in for the future.”

Missouri law requires that any significant increase in taxes or new revenue source be approved by a public vote.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

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