A state transportation leader thinks Missouri is facing a decision that comes along only once every century.  But the decision might force Missourians to make major changes in some of their attitudes about taxes and maintaining the state’s infrastructure.

State senate transportation committee chairman Bill Stouffer says Missouri has little time to make a game-changing decision—because the Panama Canal will expand to become a two-way operation in two years.  That means thousands of container ships can look for places to unload in the middle of the country instead of in California.

Stouffer sees Missouri becoming the nation’s distribution center.  But he says Missouri cannot do it without spending a lot of money on port and highway development.  “The question is, what do we do, or how do we pay for it, or where do we go from here?” he tells members of the Missouri Association of Counties. 

And that, he says, is the $20-billion question to Missourians who repeatedly have shown little inclination to increasing taxes for transportation. But Stouffer says it’s time for an adult discussion.  He says gas taxes would have to go up 30 cents a gallon to meet state needs.   But he says a penny sales tax on fuel would do the job–if voters would buy the idea.

AUDIO: Stouffer & Rep. Denny Haskins at MAC