Funding for Missouri’s roads and bridges is expected to be an important topic next year in the Legislature. Missouri lawmakers considered several versions of a bill to raise the state’s gas tax to support the transportation infrastructure, but none of those passed before the Legislative session ended Friday. A general lack of consensus on how to fund transportation, coupled with more than two days of holding up debate by Senate Democrats, effectively killed those proposals.
The new Speaker of the House, Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), elected by the body on Friday, says the issue will be a priority in 2016.
“We have a good team that’s going to be working on what those proposals are going to be and will be ready to come forward with solutions in January.”
Senator Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) sponsored the bills that didn’t make it, this year. He says the Legislature needs to focus on transportation funding.
“The voters of Missouri decided in 1924 to fund our highways with a motor fuel tax,” said Libla. “It’s been twenty years since we’ve increased the gas tax and we have deteriorating roads and bridges.”
House Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D-St. Louis) says the state is not going to be able to maintain Missouri’s roads without a new plan.
“I don’t think there’s any question that something needs to be done,” said Hummel. “What that level is, I don’t know. I would’ve voted for the gas tax increase. I think that was the responsible thing to do.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard (R-Joplin) said he thinks the transportation bill was the most significant proposal that wasn’t passed.
“We had a dialogue, but couldn’t get it through the line,” said Richard.
The Governor, in the final weeks of the session, called on lawmakers to send him a gax tax increase proposal, but time ran out. Missouri could lose millions of dollars in federal matching funds in 2017 if a transportation bill is not passed.