Missouri Senate approves $8 billion sales tax for roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/19/2013

An effort to raise about $8 billion during the next decade for Missouri transportation work is halfway through the statehouse. It would also prohibit adding tolls to Interstates 70 and 44.

The Senate voted 24-10 to advance to the House a 10-year, 1-cent general sales tax to benefit transportation projects throughout the state. Senate Joint Resolution 16 is estimated to raise $800 million a year in new revenue.

House lawmakers could soon consider a similar version – House Joint Resolution 23.

Supporters say the tax would allow the state to have and maintain safe and reliable transportation infrastructure.

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.

Officials at the Missouri Department of Transportation say that a portion of the new revenue would be used to fund a bond program for improvements along a 200-mile stretch of I-70. Specifically, plans call for adding third lanes for traffic from Wentzville near St. Louis to Blue Springs outside of Kansas City.

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

Talk of tolling I-70 has been a topic in Jefferson City for at least the past decade.

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.

According to state figures, I-70 carries 98,000 vehicles a day. About 25,000 of which are estimated to be large trucks.

The Senate resolution would also 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 nearly $1 billion annual funding gap.

“We talk about how important economic development is to attracting businesses to Missouri. The infrastructure plays a key part in that because highway accessibility ranks as the most important factor,” Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, told lawmakers during Senate floor discussion. “If we want to continue to draw economic development to Missouri we need to take care of our infrastructure.”

If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would get a public vote in 2014. 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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