Gasoline Tax Hike Unreal . . . - The Missourian: Opinion

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Gasoline Tax Hike Unreal . . .

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Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 12:48 pm, Thu Oct 23, 2014.

The opponents of a sales tax for transportation, which will be on the ballot in August, often say there should be an increase in the state gasoline tax — let the users pay for improvements — rather than hit the people with a sales tax increase. The argument of “let the users pay for improvements” sounds appealing except under today’s circumstances it doesn’t hold air in a single tire.

An increase in the state gasoline tax, to begin with wouldn’t produce enough to meet highway and bridge needs unless it would be a 50-cent or $1 hike.

The Missouri General Assembly would not be inclined to increase the state gasoline tax — now 17 cents a gallon — because members fear it would hurt them politically. In other words, the chances of the Legislature approving a gasoline tax would be as likely to happen as Congress impeaching President Obama. It isn’t going to happen. If it did, the governor probably would veto it.

Fighting a gasoline tax would be the powerful trucking lobby and other principal users, and/or suppliers-distributors that have lobbies also.

If a gasoline tax would be placed on the ballot through the initiative petition process, do you think voters would approve it since motorists today complain about the high price at the pumps? And, who’s going to head up a petition drive?

The proposed three-quarter-cent sales tax for transportation would not be levied on food or drugs so the argument that it would be regressive for all people who purchase items is less persuasive.

It is interesting to note that a spokesman for the opponents of the sales tax is Les Sterman, who for years was executive director of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. He of all people understands the transportation needs, especially in the St. Louis region. He also knows the workings of the Legislature and that it would be impossible to get a gasoline tax increase passed. 

What other practical avenues can be traveled to meet transportation needs? No one has come forward with another practical avenue.

Gov. Jay Nixon is opposed to the sales tax increase but he has not come forward with an alternative revenue-producing plan. He understands the needs. Where’s the leadership?

We are tired of hearing how highway and bridge improvements would benefit contractors that would do the work. What about economic development, jobs? Businesses look hard at a state’s transportation infrastructure when considering a new location, or expanding an existing facility.  

We favor the sales tax hike because of what the added revenue would mean for Franklin County, especially Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair. There is no hope to improve that stretch of highway unless the sales tax is approved. Across the state, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has identified priority improvements that will be in the mix if the tax is approved.

It must be noted that Congress is toying with the idea of increasing the federal gasoline tax. If that would happen, Missouri would receive a higher share of revenue but it would not be enough to meet needs.

When one adds up the positives of the sales tax increase, voters should move Missouri forward by approving the tax.

/opinion

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