Representatives serving Franklin County were split on a fuel tax increase that was approved this week by the state Legislature.
Along with the bill’s sponsor, Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, Reps. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, and Nate Tate, R-St. Clair, voted for the bill, which passed the House 104-52.
The bill split Republicans, with some saying a tax increase would hurt poor families. A proposal to put the tax increase before voters failed 102-48.
Rep. John Simmons, R-Washington, voted against the bill. Although she did not vote on the bill, Rep. Dottie Bailey, R-Eureka, spoke out against it, telling her colleagues who supported the bill without a vote of the people, “Don’t even call yourself a Republican,” according to the Associated Press.
“This is why people hate government,” she said.
The state last put a fuel tax increase before voters in 2018. Proposition D would have increased the gas sales tax by 10 cents per gallon. It lost 54 percent to 46 percent, blamed in part on confusing ballot language, which made it appear most of the money raised would have gone to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
If signed by Gov. Mike Parson, the current proposal would increase Missouri’s 17-cent-per-gallon gas tax by 2.5 cents a year until it hits 29.5 cents per gallon in 2025.
Griesheimer pointed out that people who don’t want to pay the tax can save their gas receipts and file for a refund at the end of the year.
“While I understand the overall concern of not wanting to pay more in regards to a fuel tax, it’s been 25 years since our last gas tax increase,” he told The Missourian.
Since the last increase, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has made major cutbacks, including cutting 1,200 staff members, closing 131 facilities across the state and selling off more than 740 pieces of construction equipment 10 years ago, Griesheimer said.
“I can’t stress enough how badly we needed this increase,” he said. “I feel MoDOT has done a great job of cutting back for the taxpayers of Missouri. I voted in support of raising our gas tax because I felt this proposal was fair and will help better improve the quality and safety of the roads and bridges in my district.”
As of late 2020, Missouri has 34,000 miles of highways, the seventh-largest system in the country, but its fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon ranks second-lowest.
The measure also would increase electric vehicle fees by 20 percent over five years. Fees vary depending on the size of electric vehicles.
The Legislature approved several other prominent bills in the final days of its session, which was scheduled to wrap up Friday. Among those was an online sales tax bill, which Griesheimer voted for, the only Franklin County House member to vote on the measure.
Because of differences in the approved House and Senate bills, they both needed at least another vote before going to the governor.
The bill would require any retailer that makes at least $100,000 in online sales to Missouri residents to collect sales taxes starting in 2023.
Griesheimer, Simmons and Bailey voted for a bill that would limit public health orders like those that shut down businesses and schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Tate did not vote.
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly, would limit emergency orders restricting businesses, churches, schools or gatherings to 30 days, unless extended by the local governing body, according to AP.