Missouri legislation would pursue $8 billion highway sales tax

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/15/2013

An effort at the Missouri statehouse would raise about $8 billion during the next decade for road and bridge work. It would also prohibit adding tolls to Interstates 70 and 44.

The bipartisan Senate effort would impose a 10-year, one-cent general sales tax to benefit transportation work throughout the state. Senate Joint Resolution 16 is estimated to raise $7.9 billion in new revenue during the next decade.

“This will allow us to have and maintain safe and reliable transportation infrastructure into the future, attract new folks to our communities, and make it easier for businesses to get their products out to the world,” Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said in a news release.

If approved, 10 percent of the new revenue would go to cities and counties for local projects. A protection would also be included to prevent revenue from the tax being diverted away from transportation.

The resolution would also prohibit charging highway users to drive on existing roadways.

Talk of tolling I-70 has long been a topic in Jefferson City. In the early 2000s officials representing Goldman Sachs frequented the capitol to tout the benefits of signing over the state’s asset to private developers.

A special panel created to look into Missouri’s transportation funding needs released a report a month ago that mentioned tolling as a “viable option” for certain roadways, such as Interstates 70 and 44.

In addition, state lawmakers couldn’t increase the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax without voter approval.

The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee found that a 20- to 30-cent-per-gallon fuel tax would be needed to fill the funding gap that’s estimated at as much as $1 billion annually.

Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, said the resolution sets the stage for a much better transportation system.

“The system we hand down to our children could be much safer with shoulders on rural highways, stronger bridges and more capacity to reduce congestion on overcrowded highways,” McKenna stated.

If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would get a public vote. Renewing the tax after 10 years would require voter approval.

SJR16 is awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The House version – HJR23 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

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

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