Local legislators oppose MoDOT tax plan

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Local legislators are opposing a one-cent sales tax proposal from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

The MoDOT proposal is seeking a temporary one-cent sales tax to fund improvements to the state transportation system, including massive roadway improvements to Interstate 70, which runs parallel to the Missouri River from St. Louis to Kansas City.

According to the proposal, the tax would be instituted to 10 years, generating approximately $7.9 billion in new transportation funding. Of that, $7.92 billion would be distributed to cities and counties that would have discretion on funding transportation-related activities, $6.15 billion would remain in MoDOT's coffers for transportation needs and $1 billion would be dedicated to I-70 corridor improvements.

Senator David Sater, District 29, and Representative Scott Fitzpatrick, District 158, have voiced opposition to the proposal.

"I oppose it for multiple reasons," Fitzpatrick said. "I think 10 years is way too long for any temporary tax measure. Eight years from now, none of the same people will be in the House or Senate. An entirely new general assembly will be in place and there will be a push, when 10 years is up, to reauthorize this tax or all the roads will crumble within the next year.

"In my mind, a temporary tax should be no more than two or three years," Fitzpatrick said. "People will remember that they voted on it and they can gauge whether or not they are seeing the things they expect to see in exchange for that additional percentage point on everything they purchase."

Fitzpatrick also expressed concerns on how the approximate $8 billion would be spent.

"If the General Assembly never showed up to pass a budget, the only program in our state that can function, without the General Assembly giving it spending authority, is MoDOT's road building operation.

"I think it is good public policy to limit the General Assembly's part in appropriating specific road projects because we may end up with 'bridges to nowhere' if we were too involved," he continued. "The main concern of the state, at this time, is I-70. Chances are the people of the 158th District would not see much of this tax increase. The I-70 corridor and I-44 is where the bulk of the money would go.

"It wouldn't make much sense for the people in Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties to fund reconstruction of these multibillion dollar highways that many of them never use, or use sparingly," Fitzpatrick said.

Sater expressed similar views.

"I have concerns if this passes, the House and Senate would have no say in what these funds are being spent on," Sater said. "It is our job to oversee these departments, not give them a blank check.

"I also have a problem with a tax increase for our citizens as we are trying to claw ourselves out of the economic downturn," Sater continued. "Most of the funds raised by this tax will probably go toward the repair of present highways and adding increased lanes for I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis. I have concerns about taxing the people of southwest Missouri to pay for a road that very few southwestern Missourians even use."

Sater said the present gas tax revenue for MoDOT is decreasing because people are driving less due to the downturn in the economy and the use of more fuel efficient vehicles.

"Actual appropriations decreased by 8 percent from 2009 through 2013," Sater said. "However, we have other state programs that have been cut by more than 8 percent during the last five years.

"Missourians should be proud that our state is among the top five states in the nation in miles of paved roads," he said. "However, all of these roads require repair and maintenance.

"I voted against this bill on the Senate floor, and I will vote against it as a citizen on the ballot."

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