JEFFERSON CITY - Transportation funding proponents want Missouri shoppers to pay an additional cent in their sales taxes for 10 years in an effort to fund what supporters say are desperately needed transportation improvements.
Rudolph Farber, Chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, called for more transportation funding Thursday during a conference at the Capital Plaza Hotel that would come from a temporary 10-year tax increase estimated to generate $7.9 billion. Ten percent of that revenue would be used for local transportation needs in cities and counties.
The transportation commission proposal began by stating additional funding was necessary since staff had already been reduced by 1,200 people and 131 facilities were closed in an effort to save money but stated the cuts don't solve long term transportation problems.
The tax is expected to stimulate Missouri's economy according to the proposal. Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith spoke on the matter earlier Thursday in support of a Senate bill.
Keith told senators that an updated interstate is an important piece of the state's economic strategy to compete with surrounding states.
"If we're going to win, it's not just tax policy but it's growth of the economy," Keith said.
Keith was testifying on a Senate bill that is slightly different from the commission's proposal. The Senate bill would increase the state's sales tax by one half percent to fund the highway construction.
As an example for the need to increase Missouri's highway funding, the proposal stated that although Missouri has a bigger highway system than Illinois, the state's transportation budget is one third of the Illinois' budget.
Kieth also said that MoDOT was ready to rebuild Interstate 70 and that if started in the next 12 months, the entire road would be done in five years and generate as much as 100,000 jobs.
According to the proposal, the temporary tax would not come from medicine, groceries or gasoline. The proposal also stated that a December 2012 public opinion poll of 800 Missouri voters showed that voters would pass a transportation sales tax especially if there is a freeze on gas taxes.
The highway commission based its proposal's calculations on having an increased sales tax in place by 2015. But the actual implementation of such a tax would depend on approval from the legislature and the state's voters.