Will It Pass — Sales Tax for Transportation? - The Missourian: Opinion

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Will It Pass — Sales Tax for Transportation?

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Posted: Saturday, October 26, 2013 6:41 pm

It will be some time before you will see it on the ballot, but people in Missouri will have the opportunity to vote on a special sales tax for transportation, probably in November 2014. The proposed tax would be 1 cent for a 10-year period.

The first step in the initiative procedure has been taken. Secretary of State Jason Kander has put the proposed petition, to get the tax on the ballot, out for public comment. The ballot language has not been approved by Kander’s office yet. Once the language is approved, the task of getting enough signatures on the petition will begin. The petition would amend the Missouri Constitution if voters approved the measure. The number of voter signatures needed must be equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the 2012 gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

The petition was filed by an attorney in Jefferson City. The plan is to put it to a vote in the 2014 general election. If passed by voters, the tax would be effective Jan. 1, 2015. As mentioned, it would have a sunset provision — 10 years.

While the proposition is bound to be controversial, there’s money in it for counties and cities. Counties would receive 5 percent of the taxes collected, and cities also would get 5 percent. The rest, 90 percent, would go to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

Of all the needs in the state, transportation either is at the top, or next to the top. Our highways and roads under state jurisdiction need regular maintenance, additional lanes are needed on many highways, new roads are needed in some areas and we have many bridges that do not meet today’s requirements. Some of the bridges are in the hazardous category. Transportation funds also are needed for rail, airports and ports. Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City was the first interstate highway in the nation to connect two major cities. It needs additional lanes and other major improvements.

The funds from the tax would enable counties and cities to make major strides in taking care of their needs. The tax would be of great importance to Franklin County, with its more than 800 miles of roads and many bridges. There probably isn’t a city or town in the state without needs for street upgrades.

When taxes are on the ballot, there always are “no” votes regardless of the needs. Enough signatures will be collected. There will be a great effort to promote this issue. Citizens have to go the initiative petition route because members of the General Assembly are too timid to pass legislation for a vote on a transportation tax. They don’t want their names attached to a new tax. However, they don’t seem to understand, they wouldn’t be approving a tax. They would be approving a measure to give voters the opportunity to vote on the tax.

If voters approve this tax next year, it would be one of the most forward steps citizens could take for their own benefit. With the improvements that would be made, it would make the state more attractive with a pleasing infrastructure environment. That would mean more investments in the state and that means more jobs.

/opinion