Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Jan. 7, 2021

Beginning the 2021 Legislative Session

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, my colleagues and I returned to the capital city for the start of the First Regular Session of the 101st General Assembly. The first day of any General Assembly is always filled with pomp and circumstance, but during my time in the Missouri Senate, I have come to appreciate these traditions. As I watched my newly elected colleagues raise their right hand and take the oath of office, I was reminded of the enormous amount of trust placed in me by the residents of the 26th Senatorial District. This office is bigger than any one person. In the Missouri Senate, the district we represent adorns our desks — not our names. This serves as a daily reminder that each of us are here to serve our constituents; we are not here for our own gain.

As our state continues to recover from the effects of the coronavirus, I believe the 2021 legislative session presents lawmakers with a critical opportunity to move our state forward. Throughout my time in the State Capitol, I have always been a staunch supporter of improving our state’s transportation infrastructure. Our state’s system of roads and bridges not only plays a vital role in the daily lives of all Missourians, it is critical to the health of our state’s economy. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Missouri has the seventh largest road system – more than 33,800 miles. Unfortunately, our state ranks 45th nationally when it comes to funding our roads and bridges. To help give our state’s transportation system a much-needed shot in the arm, I have introduced Senate Bill 262. If passed by lawmakers and approved by voters, this legislation would raise the state’s fuel tax by two cents per year, over the course of five years. Currently, our state’s fuel tax is 17 cents per gallon. MoDOT claims that, adjusted for inflation, our present rate would only have the purchasing power of six cents per gallon when it was passed in 1996, 25 years ago.

While our state recovers and rebuilds its economy, I believe it is critical that we do everything we can to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure. When compared to our surrounding states, MoDOT points to the fact that Missouri has the largest highway system, but the lowest fuel tax rate. As our factories, farmers and small business owners begin to recover from the impact of the pandemic, I believe we must do everything we can to ensure our state has a safe and effective system of roads and bridges. In my opinion, our state cannot reach its true economic potential without a vibrant and robust transportation infrastructure.

As we begin the 2021 legislative session, I am hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. But make no mistake, there will certainly be difficult challenges ahead as our state continues to recover from the dire effects of the virus. It has taken the lives of thousands of Missourians and forced each of us to reexamine our priorities. Every family is struggling, but the people of the Show-Me State are resilient and strong. By working together, we will overcome this pandemic and move our state toward a safer and more prosperous future.

As I begin my second term as president pro tem, it continues to be my honor to serve you in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.