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Hearings Begin on Highway Sales Tax

Posted: Feb 19, 2013 5:37 PM by Garrett Bergquist
Updated: Feb 19, 2013 8:32 PM

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JEFFERSON CITY - Supporters lined up at a house committee hearing Tuesday to speak on a proposed sales tax hike to pay for transportation infrastructure.

The measure, identical to one filed in the senate on Feb. 5, would impose a one-cent sales tax for ten years if approved by voters. The revenue from the tax would be set aside for transportation infrastructure use.

Bill sponsor Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said the cost of concrete and asphalt had outpaced the growth of gasoline tax revenue. He said Missouri would have to raise its gas tax from 17 to 57 cents a gallon to match the revenue the sales tax proposal would generate. Hinson said Missourians are far more likely to approve a sales tax increase than a gas tax increase of this magnitude.

MoDOT Director Kevin Keith said if the measure passes, his department would use $100 millon of the revenue each year to buy bonds to pay for construction on Interstate 70. Keith said MoDOT plans to tear up the highway and rebuild it in place. He said the tax could lead to the single largest jobs creation program in the state, with all of it occurring in the private sector.

"We won't hire one additional state worker," Keith said.

While support at the hearing was strong, it was not universal. St. Louis 24th Ward Alderman Scott Ogilvie questioned whether it was wise to write a blank check before putting together a list of projects. He said urban voters could end up voting on a measure to fix rural roads when metro areas need improvements to public transit. Moreover, Ogilvie said the tax would hurt the elderly, people who live on fixed incomes, and people who don't drive much. Striking a similar tone, Trailnet Active Transportation Manager Jennifer Allen said any transportation infrastructure projects should include improvements for pedestrians and bicycle riders as well as cars. Allen said her organization does not oppose the tax in principle.

The senate transportation committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on that chamber's version of the proposal at 7:30 Wednesday morning.

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