Missouri lawmakers will consider a proposal to hike the state’s motor fuel tax and transfer control and maintenance of lettered highways to counties.
The measure would provide the jurisdictions with funding equal to the amount the state has spent over a three-year period to maintain the roads.
The Missouri Transportation Department estimates it’ll cost about $500 million a year to keep the state’s 34,000 miles of roadway in good condition.
Republican state Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph says his proposal would help lower the state’s burden of maintaining the massive system. “We would reduce the size of the state’s highway mileage portfolio” said Schaaf. “We would cut way back on it, and that would do something structural to fix the problem.”
The measure would also raise the state motor fuel tax by one-and-a-half cents for gasoline and three-and-a-half cents for diesel. Missouri’s current 17.3 cent fuel tax is among the lowest in the country.
The proposal would have to pass the legislature and then go to an election before being implemented. It would amend the state’s constitution which, by law, requires a public vote.
Schaaf claims the measure would strengthen local control of roads and reduce the state’s burden of maintaining the seventh largest highway system in the country. “It kind of would give local control back to the counties, reduce the size of the state’s highway system and make it much more affordable for the state.”
He says by handing the money the state currently spends on the roadways over to the counties would save the local jurisdictions from experiencing a huge surge in expenses. “It wouldn’t be an unfunded mandate. It would be ‘Here are the roads. Here’s the money that we’re spending. Feel free to spend it how you see fit’. That way, the state of Missouri would be able to get out from under this giant road system that’s killing us.”
The state Transportation Department claims it has more miles of highways it’s responsible for than Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas combined.
The agency says Missouri ranks 47th in revenue per mile because it has the nation’s seventh largest road system that’s funded with one of the lowest fuel taxes in the country.
Schaaf says the portion of his proposal which increases the motor fuel tax would start the process of obtaining proper funding to address the needs of highways which would still be maintained by the state if the measure passes.
He introduced a similar proposal last year which met with heavy resistance from senators who felt their counties don’t want responsibility for the lettered roads. If approved by voters, the provisions of the current proposed constitutional amendment would take effect on January 1, 2019.