Missouri voters one step closer to deciding on $8 billion road plan

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A legislative effort in Missouri to raise about $8 billion during the next decade for transportation work could get clearance as early as Tuesday, April 29, to advance to the governor.

The Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee voted on Monday to endorse 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.

The committee vote clears the way for House Joint Resolution 68 to advance to the Senate floor for final consideration. House lawmakers already approved it on a 96-53 vote.

A similar effort was derailed a year ago in the waning hours of the legislative session. Some Senate lawmakers filibustered to prevent a vote that would have advanced 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.

Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, played a big part in the effort’s demise a year ago. His thoughts about the sales tax haven’t changed.

He said that while he “wholeheartedly” supports the need to fund the state’s infrastructure, he doesn’t believe that raising the sales tax is the appropriate path. Instead, Lamping has said he would prefer to use a portion of the existing three-percent sales tax for transportation purposes.

Dave Nichols, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, has called for something to be done. During a recent Senate committee hearing on the bill, he said that without additional money, the state’s roads will decline and safety will be comprised.

He has 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.

HJR68 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 and prohibit charging highway users to drive on existing roadways without voter approval.

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

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