Missouri House endorses plan to raise $8 billion for transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/9/2014

A legislative effort halfway through the Missouri statehouse 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 voted 96-53 on Wednesday, April 9, 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.

House Joint Resolution 68 awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

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.

This year’s measure also ran into trouble in recent days. Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, offered an amendment to HJR68, which sought to pull the plug on including tax revenue for bike paths.

House Democrats said the proposal to leave out alternative forms of transportation was a deal breaker.

Dave Nichols, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, has called for something to be done. He referred to the state’s construction budget for roads and bridges, which 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 I-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.

If approved by state lawmakers, the question is slated to be included on the November 2014 ballot.

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