Some members of both political parties are interested in raising the state’s gas tax to improve roads.
Missouri has one of the lowest rates in the country at 17.3 cents a gallon. Poplar Bluff Republican Senator Doug Libla proposed a 5.9 cent hike this year, which failed to move out of the legislature.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster thinks money needs to be raised for roads, and says lawmakers need to agree on what needs to be addressed. “Do we just want to maintain the existing roads? Do we want to maintain and grow? Do we want to maintain, grow and address the highway 70 problems? Let’s come up with a consensus that decides what it is we want to achieve.”
Libla, whose proposal would have raised the gas tax to about 23 cents a gallon, claims the rate’s not been adjusted in 20 years. The actual last fuel tax increase in Missouri was a 2 cent hike, as the last phase-in of a 6 cent increase over five years, which took place in 1996.
Any measure put forth by lawmakers would have to be approved by voters. Two ballot measures since 1996 were rejected. In 2002, Proposition B, an omnibus transportation bill that would have increased the motor-fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon and the general sales tax by 1/2 percent, was defeated by voters by a 3-to-1 margin. In 2014, voters rejected Constitutional Amendment 7, 59-41 percent, which would’ve raised the state sales tax by ¾-cent for 10 years and generated $5.4.
Senator Libla’s measure from this year would’ve helped create $165 million for roads and bridges. Mike Right with AAA Missouri thinks substantial funding is needed to address highway needs. “Certainly you’re ultimately going to have the kind of money that’s being talked about” said Right. “$500 million will keep the system in pretty good shape. But it’s not going to redo Interstate 70. It’s not redo Interstate 44. If you want to do that, you’re going to have to find some additional funds.”
Although Right acknowledges AAA strongly favors a substantial increase to the gas tax, he contends it would make sense to implement one over time. “For example, you can pass an ultimate 10 cent increase over a ten year period, or a five year period, 2 cents a year. It doesn’t all have to be a once.”
Wright says the fuel tax needs to be raised because of increased maintenance costs for roads. He claims the tax’s buying power is 60 percent of what it was 10 years ago.