Franklin County could see a significant impact from a transportation sales tax that is expected to come up in this year’s legislative session, which started Wednesday.
The transportation sales tax bill failed last year after it was filibustered in the Senate.
The tax would have major implications for Franklin County because some of the money could go toward widening Highway 47 between Washington and St. Clair, which local officials say is needed to alleviate congestion and safety concerns.
Last year’s transportation sales tax was proposed to be 1-cent and would have been on the books for 10 years, generating an estimated $7.9 billion statewide over the decade.
The bill would not authorize the tax but simply give the state’s voters a chance to vote on it.
A group has proposed circulating a petition to get the issue on the ballot, but State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said such a campaign could be costly. Therefore, he said, the Legislature may take up the issue early in the session to see if it can get the question before voters without a petition drive.
The transportation tax may change from the form presented last year, State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, said. Last year it was proposed to be 1 cent, but it could be changed to a half-cent this year, Curtman added.
He said he would be more inclined to support a transportation tax if other tax-dollar inefficiencies were cleared up first.
Moreover, Curtman said he thinks the Legislature should be able to decide whether the tax goes back to the voters once it expires in 10 years rather than it automatically going on the ballot for renewal.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, head of the House Transportation Committee, said putting the transportation sales tax before the state’s voters will be a priority.
He said he thinks the transportation sales tax bill will propose a 1-cent measure again. Improving transportation infrastructure can help the state attract business, Schatz said.
He added that he does not see it as the Legislature implementing a tax increase since the bill would simply give the state’s voters a chance to decide if they want to impose the tax on themselves.
Another source of transportation revenue is needed as the state’s gas tax is diminishing due to more fuel-efficient vehicles, Schatz noted.