Sen. Rick Brattin’s Capitol Report for the Week of May 17: The Wrong Plan at the Wrong Time

What a difference a year makes, huh? At this time last year, there was peace in the Middle East, our southern border was more secure than at any time in almost two decades and the president of the United States was cutting taxes, not trying to spend $6 trillion of money we don’t have. Perhaps there is no more fitting illustration of the change than the price at the pump. If you’ve filled up at any time recently, you’ve probably left the pump a little more frustrated and you’ve definitely left with a lighter wallet. According to AAA, at this time last year, the average cost of a gallon of gas in Missouri was about $1.52. Fast forward to today and the cost is $2.76 a gallon. That’s a whopping 82% increase in the cost of fuel in just one year.

With that in mind, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say most folks going to the gas pump these days to fill up their car or truck probably aren’t thinking, “this isn’t expensive enough,” and, “I’d sure like to spend more money on this tank of gas.” But, that’s exactly what some elected officials in Jefferson City must think is going on because last week, the Missouri General Assembly passed the biggest gas tax increase in state history. This new law would raise Missouri’s gas tax by 2.5 cents a year, starting in October, until the tax hits 29.5 cents per gallon in July of 2025.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when gas goes up by 82% in one year, it’s going to hit people’s budget. It’s going to make it harder for them to make ends meet. I’m pretty sure most people’s salaries haven’t gone up by 82% over last year and I’m fairly certain the cost of other goods and services people need hasn’t gone down by 82%. I know the price of food hasn’t dropped since last year. I know the cost of new or used vehicle hasn’t gone down. The cost of lumber — have you seen that lately? What gives? Why would some elected officials think it’s a good idea, now of all times, to put a bigger tax burden on the people of Missouri?

The answer is certain influential people want the gas tax raised and they know the voters of Missouri don’t want higher taxes. So, they did an end-around. They sidestepped the voters. In the Missouri Constitution, there is a provision known as the “Hancock Amendment,” which requires voter approval for any tax increases more than a specified amount. A 12.5 cent, per gallon, gas tax increase would trigger the Hancock Amendment, meaning voters would have to approve it at the ballot. But a 2.5 cent, per gallon, per year, increase — spread out over 5 years — avoids triggering the Hancock Amendment, so it can go into effect without going before voters.

One could maybe make a case for a gas tax increase if our state budget was in trouble, and we didn’t have the money to invest in our roads. But that’s not the case. The budget the Senate and the House just passed totals about $35 billion, which is $5 billion more than the 2020 state budget and likely more than we’ll have in future budget years. We have the money to fix our roads and bridges. We just need to prioritize transportation and quit the wasteful spending, giveaways and pet projects.

The bottom line is this is the wrong plan at the wrong time. I wasn’t elected to raise the people’s taxes. I was elected to look out for the taxpayer. That’s what I’ve done and it’s what I will continue to do.

If you have any ideas, questions and concern, please feel free to contact me at the State Capitol: (573) 751-2108, or by writing to Sen. Rick Brattin, Missouri State Capitol, Room 331, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

God bless and thank you for the opportunity to work for you in the Missouri Senate.