Sales Tax Hike Proposed for Missouri Highways

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OSAGE COUNTY - Legislators from both parties filed a bill Tuesday that would fund transportation infrastructure using a temporary sales tax hike.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the measure would increase sales tax by one cent for 10 years if voters approved it. The tax would be set aside specifically for transportation funding and would not apply to groceries, medications or gasoline. If the bill passes the legislature, he said the people of MIssouri will then get to vote on it.

"It's not MoDOT's roads, it's the people's roads," Kehoe said.

The potential funding of safety improvements is a personal issue for co-sponsor Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, who said a friend of his died on a stretch of road his neighbors called "blood alley" years ago.

"We don't want any more blood alleys," McKenna said.

Jeanette Mott Oxford, a former St. Louis representative and now the executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, said the tax would disproportionately affect the poor even with grocery exemptions. Oxford said those with the lowest 20 percent of incomes pay almost 6 percent of their income in sales and excise taxes. She said a better idea would be to increase the income tax and dedicate that money to highways.

"The poor still have to pay for essentials like school supplies and furniture," Oxford said.

Kehoe said if the measure passes the legislature, Missouri voters would most likely decide on it in November 2014, although he said the governor could choose to move the election up. He said he does not expect his bill to conflict with the proposed bond issue because "this deals with horizontal infrastructure and the fifth state bonding issue deals with vertical infrastructure."