State lawmakers eye sales tax to fund transportation projects

By Christina Santiago

JEFFERSON CITY — State lawmakers discussed putting a 1-cent sales-tax increase on the November ballot to fund transportation projects for 10 years.

As proposed, the bill would implement a temporary state sales tax to dedicate funds to infrastructure improvements.

Two proposed constitutional amendments would freeze the current gas tax and prohibit tolls on existing roads. After 10 years, voters could renew the sales tax or let it expire.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Dave Nichols said the need for revenue is urgent.

“We can’t afford to be building new, large projects when we don’t have enough money right now in our revenues to be able to maintain what we already have,” Nichols said. “The problem we have right now is immediate.”

Joseph Miller is a policy researcher with the Show Me Institute, a conservative think tank. He objected to the way money would be pulled to pay for construction.

“By paying for roads based on how much we shop, and not how much we drive, we are fundamentally subsidizing driving,” Miller said. “This is going to make more people drive, which in the end is going to drive up MoDOT’s construction maintenance costs in the long run.”

The Senate Transportation Committee approved the bill during a hearing Thursday.