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Petition would require public vote to implement Missouri gas tax increase

Not so fast on the recently passed Missouri gas tax hike, said Jeremy Cady, state director of Americans For Prosperity.

The Secretary of State’s Office is now accepting comments on a referendum petition filed to place the measure before voters before it can be implemented. The petition suggests placing the proposal on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot — more than a year after the first increase would take place. By the time it’s fully implemented, the tax increase would generate more than $513 million before refunds, according to an estimate from the Department of Revenue.

Cady said the phased-in approach to the bill allowed it to circumvent the Hancock Amendment. which requires voters to approve tax increases over a certain amount. “I don’t think sidestepping the Hancock Amendment is appropriate,” he said.

As the bill stands, the first 2.5-cent hike would occur in October 2021. But if AFP, a fiscally conservative advocacy group, can get the petition approved and garner enough signatures, the implementation would be delayed pending voter approval. The increase has support from the Missouri Farm Bureau, whose president called it a “concrete step to boost funding for roads and bridges.”

The Secretary of State’s Office on Monday announced the referendum petition is open for public comment for 15 days. The office will then have 23 days after the petition is approved to create ballot summary language.

Sen. Rick Brattin argued the increase would be detrimental to some Missourians’ budgets. He argued in a recent column the state already has enough money to fix roads and bridges without a tax increase if allocated properly.

The last time the Missouri Legislature approved a gas tax increase was in 1992, when it phased in a 6-cent increase over the course of five years with the final 2-cent hike occurring in 1996. That was the last year it increased despite having the seventh-largest highway system in the nation.

When the new legislation is fully phased in, the average passenger car driver traveling 12,000 miles annually is expected to pay an extra $1.30 per week. For pickups, the average increase is projected to be less than $2 per week.

Missouri currently has the lowest gas tax of all but one of the eight neighboring states.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice