A House bill that would allow the state’s residents to decide whether they wanted to impose a 1-cent sales tax on themselves to improve transportation infrastructure received mixed support from local legislators this week.
State Rep. Paul Curtman voted against the bill, but said he is not fully against the issue.
State Reps. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair and Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, voted in favor of the bill.
Schatz and Hinson say the bill simply allows the residents to vote on whether they want to invest in transportation projects.
The bill is now in the Senate.
Curtman expects another version of the bill will come back and he may vote in favor of it next time. He said he is just in the negotiation phase right now.
Curtman said he thinks the 1-cent proposed is a little too high, and that it would equate to about a 25 percent increase in state sales tax. That could be hard on the state’s poorer residents, Curtman added.
He said he would be more inclined to vote for a three-quarter cent or half-cent measure.
Officials estimate the tax increase would generate $7.9 billion over the decade it was in effect, and 90 percent would go to the state while the other 10 percent would be for cities and counties.
The tax would not apply to the retail sale of food or prescription medicine.
Hinson sponsored the bill and says more transportation funding is needed. Even those who oppose the bill realize there is a funding problem that must be addressed, Hinson said.
MoDOT officials say more transportation funding is needed as the gas tax, which has not been raised in 20 years, brings in less revenue since vehicles are now more fuel efficient.
Inflation and a loss of temporary funding are also cited by MoDOT as reasons for revenue shortages. The state’s current transportation system cannot be maintained due to the funding problems, a MoDOT report says.
MoDOT had $1.3 billion in road and bridge funding in 2009 and $746 million in 2013, the report adds. Officials estimate that MoDOT road and bridge funding will be $325 million by 2018 unless additional revenue is located.
Schatz said no one argues against the need for more transportation funding.
He realizes that there is some opposition to the bill in the Senate, adding that the senators who opposed the bill last year are still there.
In last year’s legislative session, the bill was filibustered in the Senate in the final days of the session.
Schatz is glad the bill got to the Senate early this year because it will make it harder for the Senate to kill it by running the clock out. This time the House got the bill to the Senate with five weeks left in the legislative session, Schatz noted.
He said he supports the full 1-cent transportation sales tax. But he said if another bill comes back with a smaller amount, such as a half-cent or three-quarter cent, that would be better than nothing.
But even with a full 1-cent increase that would still not be enough to fund all of the transportation needs in the state, he said.
Curtman’s amendment to remove the word “bicycle” from a list of projects that could be funded with the tax did not pass. Curtman said he was not trying to get all funding taken away from bicycle facilities with his amendment. He said he just did not want road and bridge project competing with bicycle paths for funding.