Transportation Tax Running on Fumes - The Missourian: News

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Transportation Tax Running on Fumes

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Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:32 pm

A bill to put a 1-cent transportation sales tax on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide continues to get bogged down in politics.

The bill, which is an attempt to generate revenue for the state’s ailing roads and bridges, has passed the Missouri Senate but still had not made it to the House floor Tuesday.

But State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said Tuesday that he thinks the bill may make it to the House floor for debate Wednesday.

Amendments

There could be amendments to the bill, said Hinson, who is the sponsor of the legislation in the House.

One possible amendment could involve lowering and capping the state income tax at 5.5 percent from the current 6 percent, reducing the proposed 1-cent transportation tax to three-quarters of a cent and making it a 15-year tax instead of 10 years.

Also, Hinson said another proposed amendment would require 15 percent of the funding from the transportation tax to go toward certain forms of transit such as trains, airports and pedestrian/bicycle paths.

If there are amendments, the House would likely go to conference with the Senate to discuss those changes, Hinson said.

Reluctance

State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Speaker of the House Tim Jones is worried about the transportation tax looking like a tax increase.

Jones also may be worried about the transportation tax becoming a campaign issue if he seeks statewide office, Schatz added.

But Schatz said he does not see the proposed transportation sales tax as a tax increase since the voters would decide whether it was put on the books. The bill would simply put the tax on the ballot for the voters to decide.

Moreover, Schatz said putting money into the state’s roads and bridges is a “smart investment” in jobs and the economy.

Hinson agreed that the proposed transportation tax is the only jobs bill that actually has a chance of putting people to work.

For instance, workers would be employed building the roads, and then they would have a ripple effect by staying in hotels and patronizing restaurants, Hinson noted.

Support

Schatz said he thinks there is enough support in the House to get the bill passed if Jones and Majority Floor Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, let the bill move ahead.

Jones’ office at the state Capitol directed a call from The Missourian to the House media center.

House Communications Director Trevor Fox said Monday that the floor leader “could bring it (the bill) up at any time.”

Time is running out to get the bill approved in this year’s legislative session, which ends May 17.

The proposed 1-cent transportation tax would generate an estimated $7.9 billion over 10 years.

Local officials have discussed using some of the money to widen Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair to four lanes if the tax passes.

With less than two weeks left in the session, Schatz said the state budget will be the major issue for lawmakers this week. The budget must be finished by Friday, he said.

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