Legislators mixed on tax
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, have differing opinions when it comes to the proposed sales tax increase for Missouri roads.
The tax is estimated to reel in more than $500 million per year, and 5 percent of the revenues would be split among municipalities by population, and another 5 percent would be split among counties in the same manner.
The tax hike was passed by the legislature in the last week of the session, and will head to voters for approval or denial on the November ballot.
"I voted against the 1-cent sales tax last year because I felt, where would it leave southwest Missouri?" Sater said. "Would we see any of it, or would it just fund I-70? With the 5 percent going to municipalities and another 5 percent going to counties, if Cassville gets $100,000, that's money it can probably use."
Fitzpatrick said he voted against last year's bill, and voted against this year's bill both times he had the opportunity.
"I disagree with the approach they've taken to fund [the Missouri Department of Transportation]," he said. "I think transportation maintenance is one of the core functions of government, but I'm more inclined to support user fees, which is probably not going to happen. One way is through tolls, which is really unpopular, and another way is to do something with the fuel tax.
"I feel the people who should pay are the people that use it, and with a sales tax increase, a good portion of that money will go to the I-70 corridor, and most people in this area don't use that."
Sater said the tax hike is necessary because the roads must be maintained.
"You have to spend money to keep roads updated," he said. "It's like fixing a leaky roof, you have to do a lot of maintenance with roads, and Missouri has some big projects but not any money for them."
Sater said come November, he plans to vote in favor of the tax hike when he hits the polls, and he thinks there will be some Barry County benefits.
"I will vote for it, and it will continue to exempt certain foods and prescription drugs," he said. "I think some day we will see some improvement between Cassville and the Arkansas state line. I think they'll straighten it out some and put in passing lanes like between Cassville and Monett."
Fitzpatrick said he has yet to decide how he will vote in November, but if the tax hike does not pass, he plans to pursue another option next session.
"If it does not pass, I want to sponsor a bill that would maybe increase the sales tax by 1/2 a cent, then over a period of years, decrease the tax back to what it is now," he said. "I don't think this bill is bad because it has been put to the people."
If approved by voters on Nov. 5, the general sales tax increase will take effect in 2015 and run until 2025. It would be the first time Missouri roads are funded by money not coming from user fees.