Missouri transportation sales tax proposal revived

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, November 05, 2013

In the aftermath of a failed attempt at the Missouri statehouse to approve a 10-year, 1-cent sales tax for road and bridge work, proponents are going straight to voters.

Bill McKenna, a former state senator and chairman of the Missouri Highway Commission, is among a group pushing an initiative petition to get a question on the November 2014 ballot to raise a statewide 1-cent sales tax for transportation. The tax would not apply to fuel, food or prescriptions.

“Missourians have come to realize that the single most effective way to create jobs and increase the safety of our families is by investing in transportation,” McKenna wrote in a letter from Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs.

McKenna served on a “blue ribbon” panel that met early this year to consider highway funding options in the state.

Following their work, the General Assembly considered a proposal to ask voters to approve a one-cent general sales tax to benefit transportation projects throughout the state. Both chambers supported the effort but minor changes made in the House derailed the attempt to put the question on the 2014 ballot.

The initiative petition would keep the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax unchanged, and toll roads would be prohibited for the next decade.

The transportation group says the state “can no longer rely on fuel taxes and inadequate funding from the federal government.”

The letter highlights transportation funding plans recently approved in various states.

Elected officials in Virginia and Maryland went outside the box to address transportation funding needs. Virginia lawmakers converted the state’s 17.5-cent-per-gallon excise tax on gas and diesel into a wholesale tax, which allows the tax rates to rise with inflation.

Across the Potomac River, Maryland lawmakers approved an initial 1 percent sales tax to fuel purchases at the wholesale level.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer has commended state officials for addressing the challenges facing transportation funding and the structural challenges of heavy reliance on the state’s fuel tax.

Like the legislative proposal that went through the Missouri statehouse, the ballot initiative would appropriate money for the state, counties and cities.

“An important component of this proposal is the inclusion of strict accountability measures to ensure that this money cannot be diverted by politicians to non-transportation spending,” the letter states.

MoDOT would put together a list of projects for the public to review before the vote. The list could include road, bridge and transit work.

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