JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri legislature wants Missouri voters to increase the sales tax.
The three-quarters-of-a cent sales tax increase would result in more than $500 million annually for state and local transportation. The proposal passed previously in the Senate and was passed in the House, Wednesday, May 14. The measure will appear on the statewide ballot.Transportation Department officials have warned the state lacks sufficient funds from existing highway taxes and federal funds to maintain the state's existing system.
The measure approved by the legislature includes ballot language that states the proposal would generate $480 million per year for state transportation needs and another $54 million for local government transportation.
Over the past five years, their budget has dropped from $1.3 billion to $685 million.
If passed by voters, the tax increase would go into affect in 2015 and last for 10 years before being voted on for an extension.
"The roads will continue to get worse if we don't find some sort of way to improve our funding," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.
Before joining the Senate, Kehoe had been a member of the state Highways Commission. "If we do not find additional funding by 2017, MoDOT's [the state Transportation Department's] budget will be so low that it does not have enough just to maintain the roads you're driving on," Kehoe said.
Those in opposition of the bill argue that it is unfair to tax Missourians who do not even utilize Missouri roads.
"I've got a lot of people who don't even have cars and they're going to be paying taxes on their purchases to repair roads that they don't use, " said Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington.
Engler said that the truckers who tear up the roads in the first place, will go virtually unaffected by this measure.
Bill sponsor, Rep. David Hinson, R-St. Clair, argued that the state of Missouri roads affects all Missourians whether indirectly or directly.
Hinson said this sales tax increase is beneficial for all Missourians, and that something has to be done about the lack of funding for transportation.
It will be up to Gov. Jay Nixon to decide whether to place the proposal on the August primary ballot or the later November general election ballot.
The proposed constitutional amendment includes language that would prohibit the legislature from raising the gasoline tax and prohibit the Transportation Department from authorizing toll roads while the extra sales tax is in effect.
The measure also contains a provision for the extra sales tax to be resubmitted to voters every ten years.
Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.