The legislature is asking voters whether they want to increase Missouri’s gas tax to pay for road and bridge work and to boost support of the Highway Patrol.
The House voted 88-60 to complete passage of House Bill 1460. It would ask voters in November whether to increase the state’s fuel tax by two-and-a-half cents a year for four years – a ten cent total increase by July, 2022. The current tax is 17-cents per gallon.
If passed, projections are the increase would generate about $421-million when fully implemented. $128-million would be for local governments for road construction and maintenance. The remaining $293.3-million would be appropriated by the General Assembly between the Department of Transportation to be used solely for road and bridge work, and the Highway Patrol.
Representative Jean Evans (R-Manchester) sponsored HB 1460, which was amended by the Senate to include the gas tax proposal.
“This is a vote to allow the people of Missouri a vote on how they want to pay for roads and bridges, how they’d like to fund their law enforcement,” said Evans. “Send this vote to the people. This is a vote for freedom and for safety.”
Kansas City Democrat Greg Razer said he was glad to see the House considering the ballot issue that would give the state a chance to take on pressing road and bridge work.
“We have these projects all over Missouri. We need to address it. This is a fantastic opportunity to allow the people of Missouri to make a decision on the future of our roads and bridges,” said Razer.
Kansas City Republican Kevin Corlew chaired the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force. It recommended a gas tax increase to help support transportation funding. He said whether such an increase will happen should be up to voters.
“Allow our citizens the opportunity on the November ballot to make a choice and to determine whether or not we can go forward with the 21st century Missouri transportation system, or will we be stuck with the transportation system that was built in the 20th century and continues to be funded with 20th century dollars.” said Corlew.
The House vote sent HB 1460 to the Secretary of State, who’s office is preparing it for the November ballot. Many of the 60 “no” votes were cast by Republicans.
St. Peters representative Phil Christofanelli (R) called the proposal a “massive” and “deceptive” tax increase.
“The voters already had an opportunity to vote on raising taxes for transportation. They said, ‘no,’ and here we are, coming back today, poll testing different ideas, how can we sell this idea that the voters have already rejected?” said Christofanelli. “We’re all going to go back to our districts – many of us in this [Republican] majority – and tell people how conservative we are, we are conservatives. The voters believe that conservatives are here to shrink the size of government and not to grow the size of government, and that is exactly what we’re doing today.”
Representative Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark) said this measure is flawed and he will oppose it even though his district needs road maintenance and improvements.
“My district will come after me like a crazy person for voting against this, but there’s no way in the world I’m voting for this, and if it passes I’m going to work my guts out to kill it at the poll,” said Miller.
HB 1460 was originally a bill that would waive state tax liability on cash prizes awarded to Olympic medalists. Another provision in the bill would create an “Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund,” that would pay for road projects costing $50-million or more that would relieve bottlenecks or delays of 20 minutes or more on Missouri roads.
The bill would also allow alternative fuels to be taxed at a substantially equivalent rate by 2026.
Because it was changed to include the ballot language for the gas tax, the language voters will see on the ballot will also ask them whether the state should waive tax liability for Olympic medal winners and could include language about the Bottleneck Fund as well.