Missouri Senate panel gets first look at fuel tax hike

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/19/2016

Only days into the start of the regular session and Missouri lawmakers are already taking time to discuss a possible fuel tax increase to raise new revenue for roads and bridges. One bill has professional drivers in the state steamed.

Legislators from both parties and representing both chambers have filed bills for consideration that would increase the state’s 17.3-cent-per-gallon tax rate on gas and diesel. The current tax rate has remained unchanged since 1996.

The Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee became the first panel to discuss the possibility of increasing fuel rates. The committee met last week to talk about a bill, SB623, to impose a higher collection rate on truck drivers.

Specifically, the bill from Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, would increase the tax on gas by 1.5 cents while raising the tax on diesel by 3.5 cents.

The rate hikes would raise $79.7 million annually for roads and bridges, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill. About $55.8 million would be routed to the state while the remainder would be divided between cities and counties.

Libla has said that something needs to be done to help the Missouri Department of Transportation address an approaching funding cliff.

The state’s construction budget for roads and bridges has fallen from about $1.3 billion annually in 2010 to less than half that amount this year. The annual budget is projected to dip to $325 million by 2017 – the lowest since 1992.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Missouri Trucking Association support efforts to raise revenue for transportation work in the state. However, the groups oppose plans that call for truckers to foot more of the responsibility to help bail the state out of its funding hole.

“While OOIDA believes increasing the motor fuel tax is the most equitable way to generate additional revenue – and quite frankly the only realistic option in Missouri – any increase should be applied equally to both gasoline and diesel,” said OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek.

Tom Crawford, president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, said while his group supports getting more funds for roads “we think it’s punitive in nature to do something that’s a differential.”

Instead, he wants to see a 2-cent increase applied to all fuels.

“You look at a differential and what are they trying to do, get truckers to pay more? Well, we pay more,” Crawford told Land Line. “We functionally pay more at the pump and at registration time.

“(The MoTA and OOIDA) will continue to make that point to legislators.”

Gov. Jay Nixon has said he supports Libla’s bill as introduced.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

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