Gov. Jay Nixon

Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday told The Missourian that he opposes a three-quarter-cent transportation sales tax that will go on the Aug. 5 ballot for the state’s residents to decide.

“I cannot in good conscience endorse a $6.1 billion tax hike on Missouri families and seniors when special interests and the wealthy are being showered with sweetheart deals,” Nixon said in a statement. “This tax hike is neither a fair nor fiscally responsible solution to our transportation infrastructure needs and it does not have my support.”

Nixon agreed that there needs to be a serious discussion about Missouri’s long-term transportation infrastructure.

“Along with a highly skilled work force, quality schools and healthy communities, well-maintained roads and bridges are key to our economic competitiveness,” Nixon said in the statement.

But he said funding transportation must be considered in the context of overall tax policy and other funding priorities like education.

He estimated that the tax would generate $6.1 billion the 10 years it was in effect. But another estimate from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments states that the tax would bring in about $5.4 billion over the decade.

Supporters say the transportation sales tax is needed to shore up declining revenue in the Missouri Department of Transportation.

But Nixon said the tax would “fall disproportionately on Missouri’s working families and seniors by increasing the cost of everyday necessities like diapers and over-the-counter medication, while giving the heaviest users of our roads a free pass.”

The proposed transportation sales tax would not apply to the retail sale of food or prescription medicine.

Locally, the tax could provide funding to widen Highway 47 between Washington and St. Clair as well as fund other projects, officials say.

Of the total revenue from the tax, 90 percent would go for state projects and the other 10 percent would be allocated to cities and counties around the state.

The governor also decried other tax breaks that have been approved in the wake of the proposed transportation sales tax.

“In the past two months alone, the Legislature has passed over a billion dollars in tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the most affluent taxpayers and businesses,” Nixon said in the statement. “These misguided policies, including the $776 million package of primarily sales tax giveaways rushed through on the last day of session, have shifted the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto working Missourians, while undermining support for education and other vital public services that create opportunity for Missouri families.”

The Legislature this session approved the bill to put the transportation sales tax on the ballot. Officials say the transportation tax is needed because MoDOT has seen revenue decline.

According to a MoDOT report, the agency had $1.3 billion in road and bridge funding in 2009 and $746 million in 2013. By 2018, it is estimated that MoDOT road and bridge funding will be $325 million unless additional revenue is located.

The funding reductions are due to the gas tax not being raised in 20 years, inflation and a loss of temporary funding, the MoDOT report states.

MoDOT is unable to maintain its current system due to the funding problems the reports adds. Missouri’s highway system is the seventh largest in the nation but ranks 40th in funding, the report says.