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House okays ballot issue for transportation funding

Missouri voters will get a chance to have a say on funding the state’s transportation needs for the next decade when they cast a ballot this coming November on a proposed three-quarter of a cent sales tax increase.

HJR 68 was voted out of the House Wednesday by a margin of 105-43. The resolution will ask the state’s voters if they favor the establishment of a sales tax to fund major road projects under the direction of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The vote in the House brings to an end a three year process of vetting ideas and language on new and different ways of raising revenues to support and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.

The process started when MoDOT noted the downturn of the revenues brought in by the state’s fuel tax, and the dwindling of money coming from the federal government. With vehicles using steadily less fuel, thereby drivers’ purchasing less fuel, MoDOT made drastic cuts to its workforce and equipment inventories. The department also put all future major road projects on hold.

The sales tax will run for ten years, starting in 2015, then be up for renewal by a statewide vote. The proceeds would bring more than $500 million annually into MoDOT’s coffers.  Missouri’s construction budget for roads and bridges has fallen from about $1.3 billion annually to $685 million this year. It is projected to dip to $325 million by the 2017 budget.

“We have looked at this from every angle we could, and the sales tax idea is about the only way we have come up with to raise the kinds of revenues MoDOT needs,” HJR 68 sponsor Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair) told colleagues during Wednesday’s debate on the House floor.

The issue will appear on a statewide ballot in November unless Governor Nixon schedules the ballot issue at an earlier date.

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