A bill to put a 1-cent transportation sales tax on the ballot for voters to decide won approval from the state House of Representatives Tuesday.
The bill must now go back to the Senate with some “noncontroversial” amendments, said State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, who was the sponsor of the bill in the House.
The Senate, which has already approved the bill once, is expected to approve the House version, Hinson said.
The 1-cent sales tax would go to voters in November 2014, said Hinson, who voted in favor of the bill, which passed 100-57 in the House.
If the state’s voters approve the tax, it would be on the books for 10 years. Over that time period, it would generate an estimated $7.9 billion, which would help the state’s ailing roads and bridges.
After 10 years, the tax would have to be reapproved by the voters to continue.
Leading up to the vote, Hinson said there would be groups promoting the tax and showing the public how it would be used. Hinson said he thinks voters will be inclined to support the tax once they see how the funding would be spent.
The amendments in the House version of the bill deal with ballot language and legislative oversight of how the funds would be used, Hinson said.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, also voted in favor of the tax.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, opposed the measure. Rather than asking voters to raise their taxes, Curtman said there may be state programs that could be cut to provide transportation funding. Economic development could be a state program that could be cut, since it is not providing the needed return on investment, Curtman said.
He said he had requested budget figures on whether other funds could be available for transportation. But at the time of the vote, he had still not received the information he requested and therefore could not vote in favor of the bill, Curtman said.
Before voters are asked to raise taxes, they need to be provided with an honest assessment of the state’s financial picture, Curtman added.
However, Curtman said that providing quality roads and bridges is a core function of government.
Highway 47 Widening
Locally, officials hope the proposed sales tax can provide revenue to improve the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair. One idea is to make the stretch of road four lanes to improve safety and relieve congestion.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker praised the legislators for passing the bill so the voters can decide whether they want to approve the tax or not.
This is great news for the Highway 47 corridor, Brinker said. This brings life to the county’s main north/south corridor, he said.
“It’s very exciting,” Brinker said.
“It means the door is open to provide transportation solutions here locally,” Brinker said.
If voters approve the tax, there will be an opportunity to “make big things happen for Franklin County,” Brinker said.