(This is the first story in Brian Hauswirth’s two-part series about Missouri transportation)
Legislation that would increase Missouri’s gasoline tax from 17 to 19 cents per gallon has been filed by the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee chairman.
State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, notes Missouri’s 17-cent gas tax has remained the same since 1996, and says the state Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is dipping into reserves for federal matching funds.
“It’s simple math,” Libla says. “You can’t purchase 2019, 2020 goods and services like asphalt, concrete, labor, steel with 1996 dollars.”
The bill would also raise the tax on diesel fuel from 17 to 23 cents per gallon.
Libla tells Missourinet lawmakers can raise the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes by this amount on their own, adding they have a fiduciary duty to do it on their own. He says his proposal is in line with the Hancock Amendment.
“We’re (state lawmakers) elected to represent our constituents and also represent the state of Missouri and to make sure that we protect the assets of the state,” says Libla.
Missouri voters rejected a proposed ten-cent gas tax increase in November 2018.
While Missouri has the nation’s seventh-largest highway system with 34,000 miles of roadway, it ranks 49th in funding.
Chairman Libla predicts his proposal to increase Missouri’s gasoline and diesel fuel taxes would raise about $144 million annually for transportation. He says cities and counties would receive about $44 million of that, while the rest would go to MoDOT for maintenance and new road and bridge construction.
Libla’s legislation would also adjust the taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel annually for inflation. Libla says we’ve funded roads and bridges in Missouri for 95 years with a gas tax.
He says there are road problems throughout the state.
“You know we have traffic congestion that’s costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year,” Libla says. “We’ve got safety issues, we’ve got families traveling, we’ve got school buses, we’ve got kids traveling everyday.”
Missouri’s 21st century transportation system task force submitted an 87-page report to the Legislature in January 2018, recommending a ten-cent gasoline tax increase and a 12-cent diesel tax increase. In that report, MoDOT said that congestion in St. Louis and Kansas City and along Interstates 44 and 70 in Missouri is causing an annual economic loss of $575 million.
“The cost of congestion in Kansas City and St. Louis have increased every year since 2013, along with the volume of traffic. The economic cost to Missouri drivers from congestion averages $43 per month per driver,” the January 2018 report read.
Libla says MoDOT has done an outstanding job, with the resources they are given.
Libla’s bill is Senate Bill 539. The 2020 legislative session begins on January 8 in Jefferson City.
Click here to listen to the full interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee Chairman Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, which was recorded on December 10, 2019:
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