The state Senate is expected to this week to debate a bill that would increase the state’s fuel tax to generate funds for transportation.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) would raise the state’s gas tax by two cents a year for three years. That would only generate enough money to keep Missouri from losing federal transportation dollars that it has to match a quarter of or lose, according to Senator Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City).
“We are short, in the 2017 budget year, of approximately $45-million dollars, which will cost us $160-million in federal dollars. In 2018 it gets worse. [The Missouri Department of Transportation’s] budget will be $100-million short, and it will cause us to lose $400-million from federal dollars,” Kehoe told Missourinet.
That proposal wouldn’t require voter approval because it would not raise the tax more than allowed by the Hancock Amendment, which limits increases based on inflation.
Only five weeks remain in the legislative session, but Kehoe believes lawmakers can get something passed.
“The good news is that elected officials in both the House and the Senate, and even the governor, when he last winter proposed potentially tolling I-70, at least everybody’s involved in the conversation and understands that there is a need,” said Kehoe.
Kehoe says Missouri voters even as they were rejecting a transportation tax proposal in August, told exit poll takers they realize there is a problem.
“We’ve just got to find a solution that policy makers and Missourians can get behind,” said Kehoe.
The debate will come days after the State Auditor’s office released a report that said the Department of Transportation misused $7-million in road funds in the two years that ended June 30. Attempts to seek comment from some Missouri lawmakers before this story was posted were unsuccessful, but the reaction to that audit report from Missourians has been mixed.
“And then they wonder why it’s so hard to get any type of road tax passed. Really sad because our rural roads (blacktop) are a mess in northern Missouri!” one person told Missourinet on its Facebook page.
“Give me a break. An audit is in place to find these errors,” said another Missourian in response to the news. “They will just move the funding back and take care of the problem. Maybe there wouldn’t be as big a problem if we could get them more funding since the gas tax is one of the lowest in the country. MoDOT is one of the best state government agencies when it comes to getting the most out of their funding and using it wisely.”