It will be highly interesting to see what happens to legislation to raise the state gasoline tax in the Missouri General Assembly this session.

State Sen. Dave Schatz, Sullivan, has introduced SB 734, which calls for a statewide election to raise the gasoline tax by 10 cents. The current tax is 17 cents a gallon. The Missouri tax is about the lowest among all 50 states.

The money will be earmarked for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and would provide an estimated $400 million in added revenue for MoDOT. This is hardly a cure-all for transportation needs in the state, but it would make a difference. The tax on diesel fuel would be increased by 12 cents. 

Sen. Schatz is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. His bill is backed by the 21st Century Transportation System Task Force, which in its report recommended the tax hikes. Sen. Schatz saw firsthand the transportation needs after traveling Missouri last summer with other lawmakers. In a number of areas, they saw crumbling roads and bridges that need to be replaced or repaired.

There is no guarantee but the new revenue may be used to widen Highway 47 in Franklin County from St. Clair to Washington. It would speed up many needed improvements. The traffic congestion on 47 in the county is getting worse. The traffic count is more than 20,000 vehicles a day and growing, according to a Highway 47 corridor study underway that is being funded by local agencies.

The transportation task force also recommends increasing licensing and vehicle fees, including doubling the fees for electric and hybird vehicles. The task force also suggested that a portion of the sales tax collected on internet purchases could be designated for transportation purposes.

Rep. Kevin Curlew, Republican from Kansas City, chaired the task force. He said “transportation needs a shot in the arm.” He said the task force’s recommendations would help create a “reliable, sustainable and diversified” funding source.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce supports the tax increase proposals, along with a number of other organizations.

The Schatz bill merits careful consideration. We say give the voters the opportunity to say yes or no!