Transportation Tax May Go to Voters

A local state representative said Friday that he is optimistic about the chance of a transportation sales tax bill in the Legislature passing next week.

State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said the bill will be discussed on the House floor next week, which is the final week of this year’s legislative session.

The bill would not put the tax on the books but would simply allow voters to decide whether the tax should be charged. Schatz said he feels the bill has a good chance of passing the Legislature and going to a vote of the people.

Initially, the proposal was for a 1-cent transportation tax over 10 years, but lately there has been discussion of changing it to a three-quarter cent tax over 15 years. It is unclear which proposal has the best chance of passing.

Schatz, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said legislators are working on various amendments and discussing how larger cities and counties might use the tax for mass transit purposes.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, has reportedly said he would likely not bring the bill to the House floor for debate unless there were 82 members of the Republican Caucus in support of the measure. But Jones said last week that the bill would be brought to the House floor, according to Schatz.

Likewise, Schatz said House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, has promised him that the bill would be brought to the House floor.

If the bill passes the House, it will likely have to be sent back to the Senate with changes. The Senate has already approved a version of the transportation sales tax bill.

The money would be used to improve the state’s ailing roads and bridges, and it would be in effect for 10 years. Officials estimate that the 1-cent tax would generate $7.9 billion over a decade.

Locally, officials have said they would like to use some of the money from the transportation tax to make improvements to the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair. One proposal is to make the highway four lanes to improve safety and relieve congestion.