For the past several years, I have worked hard with other lawmakers to find a solution to the funding needs of Missouri’s roads and bridges. There is a clear lack of funding for our roads and bridges and incrementally raising the gas tax, with voter approval, seems to be the best solution to me.
As Vice Chair of the 21st Century Transportation Task Force, I spent several months last year traveling the state with other lawmakers examining options for the state’s crumbling infrastructure. Before session even started, I filed a bill recommending an increase to the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. Senate Bill 734 would increase the state’s fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon over a four year period (a 2.5 cent increase per year).
Following the release of a report by the 21st Century Transportation System Task Force, it became clear that there is a need for an increase to the state’s fuel tax. Additional funding is needed to maintain the safety of our roads and bridges, and to ensure the safety of all people traveling on our state roadways. Missouri’s highway system, at 33,884 miles, is the seventh-largest in the country — yet the state ranks 47th in terms of funding per mile. We also have a disturbingly high number of structurally deficient bridges – over 2,000 at last count.
Missouri’s fuel tax rate was last increased by the Missouri General Assembly in 1992, when it was incrementally raised over four years to 17 cents per gallon. In the last two decades, inflation has eroded the value of the current 17 cent rate.
According to MoDOT, the largest source of Missouri’s transportation revenue comes from the federal government. The federal funding comes from Missouri’s share of the nation’s 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. It also includes various highway user fees and other grants. The last increase to the federal fuel tax occurred in 1993.
At the same time that these road concerns are ongoing, I am also aware that the State Highway Patrol, which is largely funded by the same road fund that our gas taxes are deposited into, is facing funding shortfalls. These funding shortfalls are making it harder for the Patrol to attract qualified recruits and, along with maintenance issues, impacts the safety of driving on our highways.
Session is rapidly approaching its May 18 constitutionally-mandated deadline to adjourn and I am working hard to pass a funding referendum before then. The idea my office is moving forward is to raise the gas tax by 2.5 cents a year for four years – but for the funding of the State Highway Patrol.
Many drivers don’t know that Highway Patrol funding actually comes from the state road fund so my idea is to help law enforcement by increasing their funding source and simultaneously help our road and bridge situation by using money that previously went to the Highway Patrol for road construction and maintenance. If voters approved this measure, it would mean that the Highway Patrol would have a dedicated source of funding going forward and our highway department will have more funding to tackle the backlog of bridge and road maintenance that has accumulated.
Also, the Missouri Department of Conservation is looking for public feedback as they begin reviewing the regulations regarding gigging on Ozark streams. Please visit https://mdc.mo.gov and click on “Gigging Feedback,” to fill out the short survey, before the commenting period ends June 15.
Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.