Missourians typically don't favor new tax increases, but what about when those taxes go toward much-needed infrastructure improvements?
Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series taking a look at Missouri constitutional amendments that will be on the Aug. 5 ballot statewide.
Missourians typically don’t favor new tax increases, but what about when those taxes go toward much-needed infrastructure improvements?
That’s something Missouri voters will have to decide when they go to the polls Aug. 5.
On the ballot, voters will find Amendment 7, a proposed constitutional amendment to implement a three-quarter cent sales tax for the next 10 years, with the funds going toward the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
The bill’s language states that the funds can only go toward improvements and cannot be spent for administrative purposes.
It is projected that the bill will bring in $5.4 billion over the 10-year period, which would start next year.
According to the language in the bill, 90 percent of the funds would then go to state projects, while the other 10 percent will be split among cities and counties.
Supporters of the bill say that it is necessary to keep up with Missouri’s infrastructure needs.
MoDOT’s budget over the last five years has dropped from $1.3 billion to close to $685 million, and it is projected to go as low as $325 million by 2017, according to the Associated Press.
If the tax isn't passed, MoDOT will eventually be in a “dire situation,” according to Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), the sponsor of the legislation to get the measure on the ballots.
“MoDOT has done everything we should ask,” he said. “They've reduced revenue and gotten rid of equipment and buildings, consolidated positions, and we just can’t cut any more revenue.
“If we don’t do this, they’re not going to be able to always fix potholes, culverts and guardrails across the state,” Hinson added. “It will be a pick-and-choose type of situation, and we don’t want that.”
Opposition groups acknowledge that more funds may be needed for MoDOT, but the sales tax is not the answer.
Thomas R. Shrout Jr, treasurer of Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, a group opposed to the tax, said it isn't fair to Missouri citizens.
“This is especially a bad idea because much of the truck traffic doesn't start or end in Missouri—just passes through. Raises on the working people and letting trucks go free doesn't make sense,” he said.
Shrout recommended the state look into other ideas, such as toll roads or gas taxes.