As many of you know, last year I was appointed Chairman of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee. For the past 13 months, I have been working, studying and researching different ways to position our long term transportation funding policy for current and future needs. Our existing funding level is over 20 years old. Last year the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed a transportation funding bill, but because of filibusters in the final weeks of the session, many bills were not able to be voted on. This year after unanimous passage by the same committee, I continue my efforts to help solve this problem by using a practical, prudent and predictable method with precedence.
Below are some facts I would like to share with you regarding the funding of Missouri roads and bridges:
#1. All money collected at the gas pump through the motor fuel user tax is dedicated for our highway, bridge, infrastructure and management needs and by state law cannot be used for any other purpose.
#2. Missouri now ranks 47th in the USA in funding per mile of highways. The nationwide state motor fuel user tax average is approximately 30 cents per gallon, plus many states add additional sales and excise taxes and several have toll roads.
#3. We have the 7th largest road system in the USA which is a huge asset to all Missourians.
#4. Over 50 billion dollars has been invested in our highway system by several generations of Missourians. This investment needs to be preserved and not allowed to deteriorate. Elected officials have a fiduciary duty to make decisions in protecting the assets of the public.
#5. Imagine if Hwy 67 and Hwy 60 still went through the middle of Poplar Bluff. How about Dexter, if Hwy 60 still went directly through their town as a two lane? There are many other examples, but I think we get the picture. Investing in highways and bridges pays off. Think of the economic development, jobs, safety of our families traveling to work and our children as they ride their buses to school.
#6. Our firemen, law enforcement and other emergency agencies require quick access to any tragic event. Detours because of lowered weight, or closed bridges, could be the difference between life and death.
#7. Missouri’s current motor fuel user tax is 17 cents per gallon. This has been the same since 1996. Historically, this rate has been adjusted four times by the legislature and signed into law by four governors (2 Democrat and 2 Republican). The most recent increase was in 1992 when the legislature passed an adjustment to the rate and was signed into law by Governor John Ashcroft.
***It is very important to note that cities and counties together receive approximately 30% of these 17 cents for their road and bridge fund***.
#8. Comparison: In 1996 the cost of asphalt to overlay our major highways was approximately $50,000 per mile. Now the cost is approximately $157,000 per mile. This is over three times the costs for the same construction procedure.
#9. My Senate Bill 623 calls for adjusting our state motor fuel user gas tax by 1 ½ cents per gallon, 3 ½ cents on diesel fuel. For a 15 gallon tank of gas this would add 22 cents to the overall purchase. The motorist, who gets 20 mpg and drives 15,000 miles per year, would invest an additional $11.25 for gasoline each year for better and safer highways. This would be much less cost than a repair to your vehicle caused by damaged roads or bridges.
#10. The fairest part of the motor fuel user tax is that those who use the roads help pay for the roads. It is estimated that almost 50% of the fuel purchased in Missouri is by out of state motorists.
In conclusion, highways and bridges are too important not to maintain and preserve. Our jobs, economic development and the safety of our families dangerously hang in the balance. In 1924, the voters of Missouri determined they wanted to fund their highway and bridge investment through a motor fuel user tax. For 92 years this has been the primary revenue source for predictable and fair funding of our highways. Those who drive more pay a little more, and those that drive less, pay less.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information which I hope will give you a better understanding of how our highways and bridges are funded and the challenges that are at hand. I appreciate your support.