Missouri May Put 1-cent Transportation Tax On The Ballot
Posted by Transit Action Network on February 18, 2013
Missouri recently introduced legislation, which would radically change the way the state collects and spends transportation funds. It could have a major impact on the prospects for transit, at least in the two major urban areas in the state.
The Proposal, Major Points:
- The legislation authorizes a state-wide 1-cent sales tax for ten years dedicated to transportation and subject to voter approval. [Polling indicated no support for an increase in the fuel tax. In fact the legislation and ballot measure would freeze the fuel tax at the present level for the ten-year period.]
- The sales tax will generate about $7.9 B over the ten-year period. 10% will be taken off the top and split evenly between cities (5%) and counties (5%) for new funds of about $79MM annually. This would represent about a 30% increase over current receipts from the fuel tax alone. $1.1B of the tax would be dedicated to rebuilding and adding a lane in each direction to I-70 between Independence and Wentzville.
- After funding Federal matches, MoDot would be left with about $5.5 B over the ten years. This would be distributed to each of the MoDot regions. The Kansas City Urban Region, essentially MARC’s boundaries, would be in line for $933MM over the period in NEW transportation funding.
- Cities, Counties and MoDot regions (MPO’s in urban areas) would have complete autonomy in how these funds are spent. There is no set aside for any particular mode (except for rebuilding I-70). In theory this is NOT a highway bill, but it will depend on the project selection process.
Is This for Real? How likely is it that the proposed legislation will get passed and approved by voters? We don’t know, but here is current data as of February 8. In the General Assembly the legislation had attracted 18 co-sponsors; a good indication of likely passage. Initial hearings are scheduled for the 19th and 20th of this month. The people we spoke to at MoDot were divided with one person calling passage a slam dunk and the other less sure. The legislation would simply allow a public vote on the proposal so how likely is the measure to win at the polls? Polling done in December of 2012 related to transportation needs showed that 52% of likely voters would approve the measure. This rises to 54% if MoDot proposes a specific list of projects – hence MoDot’s “listening sessions.” The legislature and Governor are constitutionally prohibited from using the funds for anything other than transportation. It is generally believed by professional campaign organizers that 54% is not a healthy margin of support, so a positive outcome at the polls is most certainly not assured; but, nevertheless possibly within reach. Some people feel these percentages are optimistic when general state needs are considered rather than just transportation needs.
1. The legislation is by no means fully baked so there is an opportunity to shape it (maybe “tweak” is a better word) to transit constituents’ benefit.
There are still many issues yet to be determined by the legislation. These include, among others, whether these funds can cover operations or whether they are exclusively for infrastructure development and how decisions are to be made about projects, which run through multiple MoDot regions such as the Amtrak route.
A concern for transit advocates is that “tweaking” of the legislation over the next couple of months might result in restrictions on the use of funds for non-highway modes. It will be important for transit advocates to stay informed about the legislation as it makes its way through the legislative process.
2. MoDot will hold “listening sessions” around the state to update the “Missouri On The Move” (MOTM) long-range plan. The report from the listening sessions will not be done in time to inform the project listing for the general assembly. The listening sessions are for the MoDot’s long-range transportation plan, not necessarily for the project list related to this possible legislation. We expect MoDot districts will make up the lists for the legislation with MPO/RPC input if they assert themselves.
The Kansas City area listening sessions are scheduled for March 12-13-14, locations to be determined. Transit advocates, in concert with MARC, transit agencies, and local and county governments should set priorities and be at the table along with highway interests for these sessions. Getting projects on the list is crucial. In the event voters pass the proposal, however it’s prospects may seem today, that list will represent the State’s transportation plan for the next ten years and be difficult to amend.
Areas to ponder:
This proposal represents a shift in the state from user fees to dedicated sales tax revenue for new transportation funds.
At this point, there is no pot of money reserved for transit and passenger rail.
Gasoline is exempt from the sales tax, while current gas tax is among the lowest in the country – #45.
Sales tax is often used as a revenue stream for cities and counties and a state sales tax would impact the ability of local municipalities to pass local sales tax initiatives.
There is a prohibition against tolling.
Rural I-70 would be funded statewide but urban portions have to be funded from district allocations.
The first legislative committee hearings in Jefferson City on the 1-cent sales tax for transportation funding:
Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 12:00 pm to 2pm in House Hearing Room 7
Sen. Schatz (chair of the House Transportation Committee) scheduled a full committee hearing on HJR 23, sponsored by Rep. Dave Hinson.
Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 8:00 am to 10 am in Senate Hearing Room 1
Sen. Kehoe (chair of the Senate Transportation Committee) scheduled a full committee hearing on his bill, SJR 16.
Contact the offices of Rep. Dave Hinson (573) 751-0549, and/or Sen. Mike Kehoe (573) 751-2076 if you want to attend and/or testify on the bills
Transportation Funding Proposals can be found at the links below:
Chief Engineer Dave Nichols (number 2 man at MoDOT) will make a presentation on MOTM at the Total Transportation Policy Committee (TTPC) Tuesday, February 19 at 9:30 at MARC.
Modot MOTM listening events – Per MoDot, Kansas City meetings are March 12-13-14, locations not determined yet
More information is available at: http://www.modot.org/documents/PROPOSALforTRANSPORTATIONFUTURE1-18-13.pdf