Area officials this week said that continuing to rely on the state’s “gas tax” is not the best solution to address the funding shortfall for transportation projects in Missouri.
The group of Franklin County and Washington representatives talked about finding a solution at the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri Transportation Needs meeting Monday in Chesterfield.
Bill Straatmann, Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee chairman, said while several governmental entities attended the meeting to ask MoDOT to fund their projects, he wanted to ask the committee to consider a solution to fund transportation.
“We didn’t come to ask for a handout,” Straatmann told The Missourian. “We came to thank MoDOT, Kevin Keith, Ed Hassinger and Judy Wagner for their help in getting our bridge into the draft STIP.”
The Missouri Highway 47 bridge was placed in the draft State Transportation Improvement Program, which was released earlier this month.
The final STIP will be voted on July 11, when the Missouri Highways and Transportation commissioners meet in Washington.
Straatmann said after several entities asked for funding, he spoke up and turned the conversation to finding a solution.
Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer also attended and said continuing to rely on the state’s tax on motor fuel purchases to fund roads isn’t the answer.
With electric cars, and to a lesser extent hybrid vehicles, the highways are still being used but there’s less revenue from gas tax coming in to maintain the roads, Griesheimer said.
Currently, there is a 17-cent per gallon tax on gas purchases in Missouri plus an 18.4-cent per gallon federal tax.
In 1987, Missouri voters approved a 4-cent increase in the state’s motor fuel tax. Similar measures failed in Missouri in 1985 and 1986.
In 1992, the state Legislature passed a 6-cent per gallon increase in the motor fuel tax, which was phased in by 2 cents at a time over a five-year period.
Griesheimer said the various groups involved in maintaining roads in the state — municipalities, counties, MoDOT and others — need to come together to find a new funding solution.
“Missouri can’t maintain what it has, but I know no one wants to pay higher taxes,” Griesheimer said. “The various groups need to form a united front and have a plan to go to voters for some other form of funding.”
Straatmann said while nobody likes to raise taxes, “don’t be afraid to ask people to help fund all of the needs that are out there and let them know that they have choices.”
He said the Missouri Legislature has not approved any increase since 1992.
“If you don’t do something, there will be less in that fund,” Straatmann said.
While working at Straatmann Toyota, he has seen the increase in fuel-efficient cars and electric vehicles.
In addition to Griesheimer and Straatmann, Bob Zick, chair of the Missouri Highway 47 Bridge Committee, Eva Gadcke, Franklin County highway administrator, and Joe Feldmann, highway engineer, also attended.
The Blue Ribbon Committee is a 21-member panel of business leaders, contractors and special interest groups from across the state.