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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Local senator sees 'no chance' for transportation tax

  • State Sen. Dan Brown doubts that the three-quarters of a cent transportation sales tax his fellow legislators believe in will do anything expect waste money in an election.
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  • State Sen. Dan Brown doubts that the three-quarters of a cent transportation sales tax his fellow legislators believe in will do anything expect waste money in an election.
    “I was a no vote in putting it to the people,” the 16th District senator told Phelps County Republicans June 5. “I think there’s no chance of it passing.”
    The measure passed the Senate by a 22-10 vote. There are two vacancies in the Senate.
    Over in the House, the vote was 105-43 with 11 not voting and four vacancies.
    “I was a no vote, too,” 121st District Rep. Keith Frederick told the Republicans. He also indicated he’s perturbed by the way the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is spending its money. Specifically, he criticized the department’s signs that show a logo and a declaration that “MoDOT Cares.”
    Frederick said, “They’re building a brand. And they’re using our tax dollars to build up their brand.”
    The transportation sales tax is in a proposed constitutional amendment that will be decided in the Aug. 5 statewide vote. Ballot language will claim the tax will generate $480 million per year to finance state transportation projects and $54 million for local governments.
    The tax, if voters approve, would begin in 2015 and continue for 10 years. When that sunset approaches, voters could approve an extension instead of ending the tax.
    Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, a new opposition group, has issued a statement that describes the tax as a “radical departure from the way roads have been traditionally financed."
    The committee notes that low-income residents, some of whom don’t have cars, will be paying the tax while heavy users, truckers, might avoid paying it. The group wants either a fuel tax or toll roads to pay for highway construction or improvements.
    In addition to the Rolla Republican lawmakers, the Democratic governor is opposed to it. Gov Jay Nixon figures that the tax would raise $6.1 billion over its first 10 years. That would be the largest tax increase in Missouri history.
    MoDOT has said it needs new money to have enough to maintain the roads and bridges. For five years, the budget for roads and bridges has dropped from $1.3 billion a year to $685 million this year. The way things are going, MoDOT says, it will be $325 million by the fiscal year 2017 budget.
    Other discussion
    In other discussion at the Phelps County Republican meeting last week, Brown noted that he faces a primary election challenge from a candidate who has run for public office for 35-40 years.
    “We don’t know how to run against this guy. He’s run as a Republican and a Democrat in the same year,” Brown said. “He’s a work of art.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Regarding the tax cuts approved by the Republican General Assembly and roundly criticized by the governor, Brown said he doesn’t agree with the governor’s figures.
    The senator also said that for the state to see economic growth and more jobs, it needs to do two things. One is pass a right-to-work law. The other is “get rid of MoPEP,” the consortium of utilities of which Rolla Municipal Utilities is a part.
    Brown said a business owner in Cuba, Missouri, with a $12 million annual business and 150 people working pays $183,000 in utility bills in Missouri and $53,000 in another state at a similar sized plant. “He’s going to double the size of his plant, but it is not gong to be at Cuba,” Brown said.
    In his presentation to the Republicans, Frederick talked about legislation he sponsored. He noted that one piece of legislation will allow medical school graduates who haven’t found a hospital residency to work instead in under-served places in Missouri under the direction of physicians.

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