Missouri plan would raise $8 billion for transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/30/2014

A push to raise about $8 billion during the next decade for Missouri transportation work is again before state lawmakers. It would also prohibit adding tolls to Interstates 70 and 44.

Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, introduced a joint resolution to raise $800 million a year in new revenue. Voters would have the final say on the 10-year, one-cent general sales tax to benefit transportation projects throughout the state.

A similar effort was derailed a year ago in the waning hours of the legislative session. Some Senate lawmakers filibustered to prevent a vote to advance the resolution to the governor’s desk. Instead, they called on tax advocates to pursue an initiative petition to get the issue on the ballot.

Since then, Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs have submitted an initiative petition to put the question on this fall’s statewide general election ballot. However, they say getting the General Assembly to approve the legislation would save about $1 million in petition circulating costs.

Tax advocates say that months of public hearings a year ago showed that residents throughout the state recognize that something is needed to address the state’s transportation funding needs, including improvements along Interstate 70.

The resolution would split 10 percent of the new revenue between cities and counties for local projects. A protection was included to prevent revenue from the tax being diverted away from transportation.

HJR68 would also prohibit state lawmakers from increasing the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax without voter approval and it would prohibit charging highway users to drive on existing roadways.

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

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said it’s commendable that lawmakers are getting away from previous talks to add tolls to I-70.

“Our highways were built with dedicated resources from fuel taxes and that remains the best way to move forward,” Spencer said.

He also pointed out that fuel taxes have not been raised in Missouri since the early 90s and “Missouri motorists and tourists are now paying the price for more than two decades of our lawmakers ducking responsibility for improvements.”

Spencer also said it’s important to ensure that all funds raised for transportation purposes are used solely for highways and bridges.

HJR68 awaits assignment to committee in the House.