Whether to ask Missouri voters to pass a one-cent sales tax for transportation for ten years is now in the hands of the state Senate. The House has approved its version of that proposal.
The Senate could send that measure to voters in November.
Some lawmakers who spoke ahead of Wednesday’s vote described themselves as reluctant supporters. Representative Bill Otto (D-St. Charles) says he would have preferred to find another funding mechanism, but he favored letting voters decide whether this is the way to support transportation.
Otto cautioned his fellows, however, “If this fails it’s not because we don’t need the roads fixed. It’s not because we don’t want this to happen. It’s because our constituents decided that they want us to look for a different way to spend this money … if this fails it doesn’t mean it’s over, it just means we need to work harder.”
The tax would generate an estimated $800-million annually for maintenance and construction of roads, bridges and other transportation needs including aviation, ports and cycling infrastructure.
Backers say the money is needed to support the Missouri Department of Transportation, whose Director has said its budget by 2017 might not be enough to maintain existing infrastructure.
Many who opposed the bill don’t dispute that point, but want the state to find another way to cover transportation needs. Representative Jon Carpenter (D-Kansas City) had offered a counter-proposal that was rejected, to fund transportation through an increased gas tax.