House panel OKs bill to increase sales tax for highways

Measure would be on November ballot

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians would be asked to pay a penny more in sales tax under a measure approved last week by the House for the November ballot.

The Missouri House Transportation Committee moved the bill forward with a 11-2 vote. The bill would give Missouri voters the choice to increase sales tax by 1 percent during a 10-year period.

The bill would delegate 10 percent of the revenue from the tax to go toward local transportation funds for cities and counties, and the remaining 90 percent would go to Missouri Department of Transportation, or MoDOT. In a hearing about future transportation plans, MoDOT explained that its total budget could not maintain Missouri’s transportation system without voters approving the measure.

The state transportation department warned that $485 million is needed to maintain the system, and by 2017 it will be under budget at $325 million.

MoDOT stated that less drivers and more gas-efficient cars is decreasing transportation revenue, as the department receives funding from federal and state fuel taxes.

The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission expressed that the situation is not a future problem, but a present situation that the department has known about for years. The commission has terminated the addition of any improvements or new projects for the next five years without funding already in place.

This idea, in different versions, was approved by overwhelming margins by both the House and the Senate last year. The two chambers were unable to reach an agreement on the bill by the end of the previous legislative session.

The bill approved by the House Transportation Committee now will be sent to the House Rules Committee for the next round of approval.