The Missouri Marketers and Convenience Store Association has collected enough signatures to ask voters if the state’s cigarette tax should be increased by 23 cents per pack to help pay for transportation. Missouri’s cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation, at 17 cents per pack.
Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna says the increase would generate about $95-100 million dollars annually for the state’s roads and bridges.
“I think that’s a reflection of many that rely on the transportation network trying to come up with ways to fund the investment we need,” said McKenna. “A lot of times you can’t see what the actual condition is when you’re driving on a smooth surface, but underneath and the under pinning of that roadway might be deteriorating more rapidly than we would like. We may have to do more drainage work. That’s something that isn’t seen all that frequently. We have about 60% of our bridges in this state are beyond the design life by about 50 years.”
The signatures must be verified by the Secretary of State’s office.
McKenna was disappointed that the Legislature didn’t pass a funding measure this year, but he hopes it will next year.
“When people are feeling pinched in many ways in their personal and family budgets, it’s a very difficult question to put before people to actually raise their own taxes. We have to convince people that those taxes will go to good use,” said McKenna.
The proposal that died in the Missouri House this year would have asked voters if the state’s fuel tax should be increased nearly six-cents per gallon to help pay for roads and bridges. Some state lawmakers oppose a tax increase to pay for infrastructure needs.