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Missouri General Assembly considers two transportation funding bills

Two Missouri General Assembly committees heard public testimony this week on two resolutions that would put a one-cent sales tax before voters in November 2014.

The legislation, filed by Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair) and Senator Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City), would ask voters to approve a one-cent sales tax to fill Missouri’s $700 million transportation funding shortfall.

“Associated Industries of Missouri has not taken a position on the two sales tax increases,” said Ray McCarty, president of AIM. “Missouri is the United States’ highway hub. More than $12.2 billion worth of Missouri goods alone is exported from the state. That doesn’t include the additional billions of dollars from other states traveling through Missouri.”

The House Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan), heard House Joint Resolution 23 Tuesday while the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Kehoe, met Wednesday morning to hear Senate Joint Resolution 16.

Both pieces of legislation drew masses of support from the transportation community. Supporters included interest groups, such as: Missouri’s Department of Transportation, Missouri Dump Truckers’ Association, AAA Auto Club, the Missouri Trucking Association, Missouri Bicyclists and Pedestrian Association, Missouri Public Transit Association, the St. Charles County Executive office, several contracting and engineering firms, and many local chambers of commerce and unions.

“This solution will raise enough, and is implementable,” said Kevin Keith, Director of MoDOT. “I think the most about what this legislation will do for Missouri’s economy.”

The director estimates the construction projects created due to this legislation would put more than 270,000 people to work.

Tom Barta of Associated General Contractors of St. Louis stated in his testimony, for every $1 billion spent on transportation, roughly 35,000 jobs are created.

The proposals would generate approximately $800 million annually.

The resolutions do not contain any specific transportation upgrades. The sponsors advocate that after the bill’s passage, MoDOT will begin touring the state to begin discussions with its regional planning partners. MoDOT and the partners would then determine which jobs would be included in the proposal put to voters.

Despite the lack of specific jobs in the bill’s current form, supporters consistently mention the importance of widening Interstate 70 to six lanes between Wentzville and Kansas City, and enhancing safety measures along 5,000 miles of rural Missouri roads.

Opponents to the legislation have challenged the reasonableness of the sales tax.

The issue is the one-cent sales tax, said Michael Rathbone, policy researcher for the Show Me Institute.

Rathbone would prefer a combination of revenue generators, including public-private partnerships, a gas tax increase and a rise in license fees.

Even with a sales tax increase, Missouri would still have one of the lowest sales taxes compared to its neighbors. Oklahoma and Iowa would have a lower sales tax by less than three-quarters of a cent if Missourians voted to support the one-cent sales tax.

The proposals must first receive approval from Missouri’s General Assembly.

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