Senators call for increased transportation funding

By Wes Duplantier

Two Missouri state senators filed legislation last week that would increase funding for the state’s roads and highways, but pass on at least part of the cost to shoppers in the state.

Sens. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, are pushing a measure that would impose an additional one-cent sales tax for 10 years, if voters approve it in the November 2014 elections. Revenue from the tax would go specifically to city, county and state transportation projects.

Kehoe and McKenna spoke to reporters Feb. 5 about their proposal at a construction site near U.S. 50 in northwestern Osage County, about 15 miles from the state Capitol.

Both senators have called for increased transportation funding in the past. Kehoe voiced support last year for a proposal to put tolls along most of Interstate 70 to finance upgrades to the aging highway.

That proposal never made it to the full Senate, but a panel of 22 representatives of business and government interests was formed to study the state’s transportation funding needs. In its final report, that committee estimated that the state would need an additional $600 million to $1 billion annually to deal with the state’s transportation infrastructure needs.

On Wednesday, Rudy Farber, the head of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, said he is pleased the Legislature is working on finding a new funding source for transportation.

The state’s transportation department has expressed the state has billions in deferred maintenance costs and Farber said he likes Kehoe and McKenna’s proposal.