The prospects for passage during the current session of the Missouri legislature of a bill to provide more state transportation funds might be greater in one chamber than the other.
The findings of the state auditor that the Department of Transportation used about $7-million in road funds for things like administrative leave for outgoing employees and settlement of litigation has been called a misuse by some.
House Speaker John Diehl (R-Town and Country) said it’s “disturbing.”
He in February requested that two of the House’s committees work together to draft a report on the state’s options for funding transportation. He originally wanted that report in March, but said Thursday that with the audit’s findings, that report and the overall funding issue might be on hold a while.
“It could well be in light of this audit and some of the other proposals that it’s something that we’re going to carry over into next session,” said Diehl. “It’s something that we have to get right. It’s something that has to get addressed.”
Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) is less bothered by the audit’s findings.
“I don’t like to see that they misused $7-million, but that $7-million was spent on addressing problems within the transportation budget that needed to be addressed and I just don’t think it’s that big of a problem,” Dempsey told reporters Thursday.
The Senate could this week debate a proposal sponsored by Senator Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) that would raise Missouri’s gas tax by 2 cents a gallon per year for each of the next three years. That would generate enough money to keep Missouri from losing federal transportation dollars that match the money the state puts toward transportation.
Dempsey said that bill could be changed so that it would only raise the gas tax 2 cents, because some lawmakers question whether raising it 2 cents a year for three years would be constitutional.
Diehl said there are members in his chamber with such concerns.
“We’ve talked to Senator Libla a few times and I think there are some changes being made to that,” Diehl said. “We’ll just see what the Senate gets out.”
The chambers resume work today with committee meetings followed by the full Senate convening at 4 p.m. and the full House at 5 p.m. This week a conference between the two chambers will also be working on the proposed state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and the scheduling of those conference committee could affect other debates.