Missouri House panel moves forward plan to raise $8 billion for transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/25/2014

A legislative effort moving through the Missouri House is intended to raise about $8 billion during the next decade for transportation work. It would also prohibit adding tolls to Interstates 70 and 44.

The House Transportation Committee voted to advance 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 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.

Dave Nichols, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said something needs to be done. He referred to the state’s construction budget for roads and bridges that has fallen from about $1.3 billion annually in 2010 to $685 million this year.

Nichols added that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The annual budget is projected to dip to $325 million by 2017 – the lowest since 1992.

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.

House Joint Resolution 68 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.

The resolution 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.

HJR68 awaits further consideration on the House floor.

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