House Passes Sales Tax for Road Repairs

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JEFFERSON CITY - A proposed sales tax increase to pay for transportation infrastructure moved one step closer to the ballot Tuesday as the Missouri House gave the proposal its approval.

The proposal would increase the state sales tax by one cent for ten years if voters approve it. The additional revenue would be reserved for use in transportation projects such as highway repairs and public transit projects. MoDOT has said its first priority if the tax passes would be to completely rebuild Interstate 70. Voters would have the option to renew the tax after ten years. Otherwise, it would go away.

Although the proposal has strong GOP backing--its senate sponsor is Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City--some Republican lawmakers spoke against the bill on the house floor, attacking it as an unnecessary tax increase. Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, and Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, both called the bill a betrayal of voters who elected them to keep taxes low.

"It blows my mind that our party is bringing this up," Brattin said.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, said while he recognized the need for better transportation infrastructure, he could not in good faith vote for a sales tax that would disproportionately hurt the poor and the elderly. Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, replied the poor and elderly would benefit from transportation improvements more than anyone else.

Rep. T.J. McKenna, D-Crystal City, defended the bill as a smart investment and a good way to create jobs, citing one estimate that the construction resulting from the proposal would create 270,000 jobs. McKenna's cousin, Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, co-sponsored the proposal in the senate along with Kehoe.

The proposal must now return to the senate due to changes the house made. If the senate accepts the changes, the proposal will go on the November 2014 ballot for voters' consideration.

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