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Higher fuel tax to fund improved highways, bridges

Missouri drivers, tired of having some of the nation’s worst roads, have been less resistant recently to increased taxes to improve them. Part of the lack of resistance could be the booming Trump economy or lower average fuel costs the last two years. Whatever the reason, that change in mood may have provided cover to the Missouri legislature as it passed this week a motor fuel tax increase of 10 cents. The current rate of $0.17 per gallon has not been increased for decades. Under the new plan it would rise to $0.27 per gallon over a four-year period.

Republicans and Democrats have been struggling for several years to come up with a plan to deal with a funding shortage for Missouri’s roads and highways.

A proposal to hike the state sales tax by just 0.75 percent for the purpose of transportation projects was rejected by voters in 2014. The legislation was the brainchild of Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, who has been among the legislators trying to find money for roads.

If the measure approved by the legislature Friday is signed by Governor Greitens, it’ll go before voters in the form of a Constitutional amendment.

Raising the motor fuel tax was one of the key recommendations of a task force put together by lawmakers in 2017. The group (21st century Missouri Transportation System Task Force) held at least seven meetings across the state before presenting suggestions to improve transportation in Missouri to the legislature in January.

It recommended a ten-cent gasoline tax increase and a 12-cent diesel tax increase. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) predicted the average Missouri motorist would pay an additional $5 per month, under the proposal. Not much many say, considering the improvement of highways and bridges that will result.

Missouri has the 7th largest transportation system in the country but ranks 46th in revenue per mile. The massive disparity has been attributed to a unique arrangement in which Missouri maintains a vast network of county highways, commonly referred to as the lettered roads like M-291 Highway in Lee’s Summit, unlike most any other state.

Missouri is tied with Oklahoma for the lowest fuel tax in the region at $0.17 per gallon. By comparison, Missouri maintains 33,856 miles of roads and bridges while Oklahoma handles 12,257 miles.

The Show-Me State hasn’t seen a boost in fuel tax since 1996. MoDOT has pegged the increase in funding needed to maintain and provide infrastructure upgrades to the state’s roads at $825 million annually.

Fully implemented, the motor fuel tax increase to $0.17 per gallon would generate roughly $400 million per year.

The measure approved by the legislature was passed in the House Friday.

–Metrovoicenews.com staff and news services

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