Missouri voters will be asked to approve a smaller sales tax increase than what was originally proposed if a state Senate bill is approved by the House.
The Missouri House had passed a bill that would have asked the state’s voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects.
But the Senate this week passed a bill that would ask voters to approve a smaller sales tax increase of three-quarter cents for transportation projects.
The Senate voted 22-10 to pass the three-quarter cent measure. State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, voted against it.
He could not be reached for comment.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan said he would have preferred letting voter’s decide on the 1-cent measure.
But voters may be more willing to support a three-quarter cent hike than a full 1-cent increase, Schatz said.
However, a smaller tax means there would be a lot of projects that would go unfunded, and it would take longer to get work done, he said.
Local officials in Franklin County have expressed support for letting the state’s residents vote on the 1-cent measure. The tax could provide revenue to widen the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair, local officials have said.
Since the 1-cent measure passed the House, Schatz said he is confident that the three-quarter cent effort will pass.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, voted against the 1-cent measure in the House, but State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, voted in favor.
Schatz, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said a three-quarter cent increase is better than nothing. However, he said it would bring in about $180 million less annually than the full 1-cent.
The 1-cent measure still would not have been enough to fund all of the transportation needs, Schatz said.
The Senate’s version is projected to generate $534 million annually during the 10-year lifespan of the tax, The Associated Press reported. A 1-cent sales tax would pour $720 million per year into the state’s coffers, the AP reported.
The Missouri Transportation Department says that it takes $485 million annually to maintain roads in their current condition but that the state’s construction budget is projected to dip to $325 million in 2017, the AP reported.
Revenue is declining due to inflation, a lack of fuel tax revenues and a loss of temporary funding, according to MoDOT. The fuel tax has lost some of its effectiveness because it has not been raised in some 20 years, and vehicles are becoming more efficient, officials say.
The transportation sales tax would be in place for 10 years and then have to go back up for voter approval to stay in place.
It would not apply to the retail sale of food.
Ten percent of the tax revenue would go to cities and counties, and 90 percent would go to the state. Priority will be given to projects that address safety problems.
The Senate bill also says the state as well as cities and counties cannot operate a toll road or toll bridge while the transportation sales tax is in effect. Cities, counties and the Legislature also could not raise the fuel tax while the transportation sales tax is in effect.