The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s budget comes out of the Highway fund, but some candidates for governor want to pay for Missouri’s roads and bridges by shifting the Patrol’s budget to general revenue.
Missouri senate budget chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says additional general revenue would then have to be found.
“The concept of exchanging the highway money for the Patrol out of the road fund to general revenue, if we had $230 million in general revenue, we’d spend it on roads. If you take the Patrol out of $230 million out of the road fund and spend that actually on construction and move the Patrol over to general revenue, that’s a difficult prospect,” said Schaefer.
In order for the funding switch to happen, the Missouri Constitution would have to be amended through a public vote.
“There are a lot of aspects to road safety. One is, that you actually have a physical pavement that is safe. The other is that you have law enforcement on that road that keeps that road safe,” said Schaefer. “My biggest concern is the Highway Patrol is the element of public safety on our highways that make those roads safe, just like smooth pavement without potholes and bridges that don’t collapse is a public safety issue.”
Transportation officials say they need about $160 million in additional funding to build and maintain the system and $30 million to restart a program that would allow the state and local governments to share infrastructure costs.
State lawmakers agree that a transportation funding fix must be found but they disagree on how to fix it. Other ways to fund Missouri’s roads and bridges are being offered this year, including using welfare savings, increasing the state’s gas tax and a cigarette tax increase.
The cigarette tax proposal would ask voters to approve a 23-cent increase and a 5% increase for other tobacco products. Such increases are estimated to bring in around $100 million annually.
The Senate is expected to debate this week Senator Doug Libla’s gas tax increase bill that would add 1.5 cents for gasoline and 3.5 cents for diesel. Increasing Missouri’s fuel tax is estimated to generate more than $55 million annually.