The Missouri Legislature has passed a proposal that would boost the state’s gas and diesel tax for the first time in about 25 years.

Photo by Alisa Nelson

The state House of Representatives voted Tuesday night 104-52 in favor of increasing the user fee by 12.5 total cents over five years. The plan would also give most drivers the choice to hold onto their receipts and turn them in to apply for a rebate if they don’t want to pay for the amount of the increase.

Another provision would increase annual fees on electric vehicles by 20% per year over a five-year period. The plan would also create a task force to study the impact electric vehicles have on the state’s transportation funding.

The bill could raise about $500 million annually to help fund Missouri’s roads and bridges.

When the legislation is fully phased in, the average passenger car driver traveling 12,000 miles annually is expected to pay an extra $70 per year. For pickups, the average increase is projected to be less than $100 annually.

Missouri’s fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon has not been increased since 1996, despite having the 7th largest highway system in the nation. Alaska is the only state with a lower gas tax – with an eight-cent-per-gallon rate.

In 2002, 2014, and 2018, Missouri voters opposed ballot measures that would have increased funding to help with the state’s highway needs.

Representative Becky Ruth, R-Festus, handled the bill sponsored by Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan.

“We are still on a 1996 budget in the year 2021,” Ruth said during debate.

Ruth said the legislation is modeled after South Carolina’s fuel tax law.

“In South Carolina that this got passed in 2017 with a supermajority Republican House and a majority Republican Senate and a Republican governor, but the governor actually vetoed that. Did you know? He vetoed it, but you know what happened the next day with that supermajority conservative Republican House and that conservative majority Senate? They overrode that governor’s veto and they enacted this back in 2017,” said Ruth.

Representative Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, did not vote on the bill.

“If this is conservatism, then I’m Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary, and all the queens that have ever been on Earth. “When I think of a rebate, I think of a used car salesman. Sorry if there’s any used car salesmen here in the House. But when you go in to buy a used car, or a car in general, you see rebate in big, bold letters, and it says $5,000 rebate if you buy this car. If you’ve been in sales at all, you know the price is just jacked up a little and you don’t really get a rebate. They just want to make you happy and send you back a check. It’s just a bunch of bologna.”

Representative Jason Chipman, R-Steelville, unsuccessfully attempted to attach a provision that would have asked voters to decide whether to support the fuel tax hike. Representatives squabbled for about three hours over that effort. Chipman made several arguments, including that the fee is a regressive tax.

“Who’s going to get hurt the most? Poor people. Poor people drive older cars. Older cars get worse gas mileage. They’re going to be buying more gas,” said Chipman.

Representative Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, challenged Chipman’s effort.

“One of the most important ways that voters can have a say so in democracy is through the ballot initiative process,” he said. “When it comes to this amendment, I’m a little hesitant to believe, and with no disrespect, that this is going to be done in good faith. And the reason I say that is this body over and over has told the will of the people that they don’t care about their vote. When it’s came to minimum wage, and we have legislation that is trying to roll that back to a federal minimum wage. When it came to Medicaid and voters have voted and said that they want to expand Medicaid and we still won’t uphold the will of the people. Even the amendment handler said that there is still the possibility, regardless if we send this to the ballot, that we will still make a change on what people voted on.”

The next stop for the bill is Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. Parson has voiced support for increasing infrastructure funding in general.

To view Senate Bill 262, click here.

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