A major departure from the way Missouri pays for its roads and highways is halfway through the legislature.  It says a lot about how we’ll be living our lives in a few years.

The one-percent sales tax increase is ready to start working its way through the House after clearing the state Senate. The tax would have to be approved by the voters. It would expire in ten years unless voters renew it.

Senate sponsor Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City says more efficient vehicles use so much less fuel that the fuel tax is generating nowhere near the money needed to support state transportation infrastructure needs.  And the situation will be much worse in ten years.  Kehoe says, “By 2015, I think, the CAFE standard is 50-something miles to the gallon. But the more interesting question is, ‘will they still be using gas?'”

Kehoe says Missouri’s road system is seventh in the nation in size while state funding ranks about 45th.  He doubts that system is going to be any smaller in 2023–although gas tax collections to pay for it likely will be.

The gas tax is considered a user tax–a tax levied on users of the system. Some observers say the sales tax moves Missouri in a new direction.  But Kehoe says it, too, is a user tax in this situation.   He says people who don’t own vehicles still rely on the transportation system  to serve them–whether it’s getting a package from Fed-Ex, USPS, or the Postal Service, or buying food that got to the grocery store by train, truck, or airplane.

AUDIO: Kehoe interview 8:31