A proposed fuel tax increase could come with a rebate option for drivers who fill up in Missouri. State Representative Becky Ruth, R-Festus, has filed legislation that would increase the fee two cents annually for five years to help to pay for Missouri’s underfunded highway system. She tells Missourinet if drivers turn in their receipts to the Department of Revenue, they could ask for a rebate.
“This bill is unique in the fact that while it raises the gas tax, also I think gives a little bit of balance and it actually makes it a voluntary tax instead of a mandatory tax,” she says. “This is critically needed for our state to find a type of sustainable funding source. I think this is just one tool in the toolbox to help us continue to maintain and fund our roads and bridges.”
The state has not increased its gas tax of 17 cents per gallon since 1996. Missouri has the seventh largest highway system in America, but Ruth says we rank 48th in the nation in transportation funding.
“We’ve reached a crisis level here in Missouri where we have between $8 billion and $10 billion in unfunded need for our transportation system,” Ruth says.
Ruth, who has served as the House Transportation Committee chairwoman for the past three years, says South Carolina passed a similar model in 2017.
“In South Carolina when they did this, and they did 12 cents over six years, they gave back a little over $3 million and they took in for their roads fund a little over 500 million,” says Ruth.
Several efforts have been made over the years to boost the fee, but voters and the state Legislature have both voted down the endeavors. Ruth says South Carolina ran into similar opposition for many years.
Under the bill, rebates could be requested for up to two vehicles per calendar year. Ruth’s proposal would not limit the weight and size of the vehicle allowed for a rebate. She says fuels included in the plan would be all those listed in state statute. There would not be a cap on how much the state would dole out in rebates. In order to not violate the interstate commerce clause, Ruth says the rebate must be open to Missouri residents and those from out-of-state.
Another element would require the Missouri Department of Transportation to show on its website the money coming in from the tax and the money going out.
The proposal, House Bill 1044, does not require a vote of the people.
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