Two local state representatives have pledged support of a proposed bill that would put a 1-cent transportation sales tax before voters.
They say the tax is needed to generate revenue for the state’s aging roads and bridges.
The Missouri Department of Transportation does not have enough money to maintain roadways, let alone expand, said State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who chairs the House Transportation Committee.
The bill would not implement the tax, but would simply put the question up to the state’s voters.
If approved, the tax would infuse about $7.5 billion into highway infrastructure over 10 years, said State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, who said he plans to file the House version of the bill in the next week or so.
Schatz and Hinson said they also see the bill as an economic development boost to the state.
Without good roads and bridges, the state cannot attract industry, said Schatz, adding that the state’s two major interstates, I-70 and I-44, need expansion.
Part of the plan would make I-70 three lanes in each direction from Wentzville to Independence, Hinson said.
The bill would be great for Franklin County, Hinson said, noting that cities and counties would each get about $400 million over the 10-year life of the tax.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said he does not know if a 1-cent sales tax for transportation would win approval from voters.
If the bill makes it out of the Legislature, Griesheimer said he will support it.
“We’ve got to do something,” Griesheimer said.
Griesheimer noted that the extra revenue could greatly benefit Franklin County, especially when it comes to widening Highways 50 and 47.
It is unknown exactly how much Franklin County would get from the tax, but Hinson said he hopes to get those figures soon.
Hinson and Schatz are optimistic that the bill will make it out of the Legislature.
The consequences of it not passing are continued limited maintenance on the state’s highways, Hinson said. If it is approved by the voters, the revenue would drastically change the face of the state highways and help smaller roads and bridges around the state, Hinson said.
The tax is especially critical now that fuel tax revenue is on the decline because of vehicles that get better gas mileage, Hinson said.
A consistent revenue stream for transportation purposes is needed, Schatz said.
Schatz noted that a provision in the proposed bill would freeze the gas tax rate, so voters could be assured that they would not later be hit with an increase in that tax as well.
Hinson said he likes that the tax has a definite ending date in 10 years. Voters would then have the option of renewing the tax after seeing what had been accomplished.
No one likes tax increases, but the problem cannot continue to be ignored, Schatz said, adding that the tax would not apply to groceries and medicine.
Unless there is a special election, the voters probably would not vote on the tax until November 2014, Schatz said.
State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, will introduce the proposal in the Senate.
Hinson and Schatz attended a news conference held by Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Rudy Farber on Thursday in Jefferson City to support the sales tax proposal.