ELECTION 2018: Missouri voters to decide on 10-cent fuel tax increase, freight funding
October 15, 2018
A question on Missouri’s fall ballot will allow voters to decide whether they want to tax themselves to help cover transportation-related costs.
The state’s Department of Transportation has said there is an $825 million gap in annual road and bridge funding. In an effort to help address the issue, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment would give voters the final say on whether the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon fuel tax should be increased by a dime.
The tax rate has remained unchanged since 1996.
Passage of Proposition D on the statewide ballot would authorize two changes to benefit transportation work.
The main component would raise the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents. Specifically, the tax rate would increase by 2.5-cent increments over four years. The tax rate would be raised to 27 cents by July 2022.
A 23-member task force of state officials and private citizens early this year released transportation funding recommendations to the General Assembly. Among the options touted by the group was raising the state’s fuel tax rate by 10 cents for gas and 12 cents for diesel.
The legislature followed up the group’s action by approving a resolution to include the fuel tax question on the Nov. 6 ballot. Gov. Mike Parson also endorsed the measure’s passage.
In addition to increasing gas and diesel rates, taxes on alternative fuels would be raised to 27 cents by 2026.
The state’s fuel tax pays for bridge and road work, but it also supports the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Approval of the ballot question would result in new revenue from the tax increase being routed into a fund dedicated to troopers.
Advocates say the change will free up revenues from the current tax rate that are routed to the Highway Patrol to instead be applied for roads and bridges.
Among the concerns voiced by opponents is the amount of the tax increase, and taking the decision about how much tax revenue the Highway Patrol receives out of the hands of lawmakers.
When fully implemented, the state estimates the rate increase would raise $290 million annually for DOT-operated roads and $125 million for local roads.
The ballot question includes authorization to create a Bottleneck Fund. The fund would be used to address traffic problems that affect freight.
Projects tabbed to benefit from the fund would need to meet conditions that include:
- The project is a road improvement project with at least $50 million in construction cost.
- The project is necessary to reduce a delay of at least 20 minutes during peak traffic hours that affect freight movement.
- The project is featured on the 2014 state freight plan.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has highlighted projects to benefit from the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund, which include Interstate 270 in St. Louis, the I-70 bridge across the Missouri River at Rocheport, and the U.S. 169/Buck O’Neal Bridge in Kansas City.