Missouri Senate panel advances 'punitive' fuel tax hike

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/26/2016

A Missouri Senate panel has advanced a bill described as “punitive” against the trucking industry.

At issue is a bill that relies largely on professional drivers to raise new revenue for roads and bridges via a fuel tax increase.

The Show-Me State now collects a 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 voted to approve a bill to impose a higher collection rate on truck drivers. Specifically, SB623 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.

“This proposal is punitive against the trucking industry based on an unfortunate and widespread misperception that truckers don’t pay their fair-share.”

Tom Crawford, president and CEO of the Missouri Trucking Association, said his group supports 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 recently told Land Line. “We functionally pay more at the pump and at registration time.”

Crawford added that both truck groups in the state are working together to make sure legislators get the full picture.

“We are working alongside OOIDA to try to get legislators to bring fairness back into the equation.”

Gov. Jay Nixon has said he supports the bill that awaits further consideration in the Senate.

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

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