Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for March 12, 2021

Improving Our State’s System of Roads and Bridges

From my first day in the State Capitol, one of my top priorities has been improving our state’s aging transportation infrastructure. Missouri’s road system spans more than 33,800 miles — the seventh largest in the country. In addition, the Show-Me State is home to more than 10,000 bridges and culverts, more than 4,600 miles of rail lines and 1,050 miles of navigable rivers. Our function as a center of transport and travel is an integral part to our state’s economy. To put it into perspective, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) reports that trucks, trains, barges and planes move more than one billion tons of freight, valued at more than $1 trillion, through our state each year.

While Missouri’s system of roads and bridges is a tremendous asset to our state, I fear, if not maintained, this asset could turn into a crumbling liability. For example, Missouri’s gas tax is 17 cents per gallon. MoDOT claims that, adjusted for inflation, our present rate would only have the purchasing power of 6 cents per gallon when it was last increased in 1996. When compared nationally, Missouri ranks 45th when it comes to funding our state’s transportation network. This is unacceptable, and as a state, we must do more to maintain one of our top assets.

To help provide additional transportation funding, the Missouri Senate passed my Senate Bill 262. This legislation increases the state’s gas tax by 2.5 cents per gallon, starting in October 2021, and increases it by that same amount each year until it reaches an additional 12.5 cents per gallon in 2025. Unlike previous transportation funding proposals, SB 262 includes a rebate provision. Missouri drivers who choose to keep receipts for gas purchased for use in a vehicle weighing less than 26,000 pounds can request a full refund of the additional taxes paid. This provision essentially eliminates the tax increase for owners of passenger vehicles if they would prefer not to pay the higher rate.

Like many Missourians, I am a believer in low taxes, but I also recognize the need for responsible funding for an asset used by countless residents on a daily basis. While our economy continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, I believe it is crucial we do everything we can to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure. After receiving approval from my colleagues in the Missouri Senate, SB 262 now heads to the Missouri House of Representatives for consideration. As this bill moves forward, I am cautiously optimistic that it will be able to navigate the legislative process and make its way to the governor’s desk for his consideration. From where I stand, SB 262 represents an opportunity to ensure our state’s system of roads and bridges is safe and reliable for generations to come. I firmly believe a robust transportation system is key to a vibrant economy, and SB 262 provides the resources necessary to ensure this becomes a reality.

It is an honor to serve our community in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns about state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.