Missouri panel advances $8 billion roads tax

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/8/2013

A Missouri House committee voted to advance an effort to 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 House Transportation Committee supported a 10-year, one-cent general sales tax to benefit transportation work throughout the state. House Joint Resolution 23 is estimated to raise $7.9 billion in new revenue during the next decade. The effort’s next stop is the House floor.

Senate lawmakers discussed a similar version – Senate Joint Resolution 16.

Supporters say the tax would allow the state to have and maintain safe and reliable transportation infrastructure into the future, attract new people to communities, and make it easier for businesses to get their products out to the world.

If approved, 10 percent of the new revenue would be split between 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 early this year that mentioned tolling as a “viable option” for certain roadways, such as Interstates 70 and 44.

In addition, the resolution would prohibit state lawmakers from increasing 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 recently stated.

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

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

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