Transit Action Network (TAN)

Advocates for Improved and Expanded Transit in the Kansas City Region.

Posts Tagged ‘Missouri’

That Penny Sales Tax — Here’s What We Are Telling the Legislature

Posted by Transit Action Network on February 3, 2014

MOstateflagLast year the Missouri General Assembly considered a referendum (SJR 16) that would ask Missouri voters to approve a ten-year “temporary” one-cent sales tax for the purpose of increasing funding of our transportation systems.

The measure was filibustered and failed in the final days of the session.

It was anticipated that an initiative petition would be circulated early this year, but the Post-Dispatch reports that those plans have been suspended pending another try in the General Assembly.

Representative Dave Hinson has filed HJR 68

and Senator Mike Kehoe has filed SJR 48.

The two bills are virtually identical to those considered last session.

The House Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on HJR 68 on Tuesday, February 4, at Noon in the Capitol Building.  The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on SJR 48 that same day at 8:30 am.

We are submitting written testimony to the committees. We encourage others to consider submitting testimony as well.

Following is our statement regarding these bills:

To: Senators Kehoe and Schaefer and members of the Senate Appropriations Committee

Representatives Hinson and Schatz, and members of the House Transportation Committee

From: Transit Action Network (an association of individuals and organizations who work to expand and improve public transit in the Kansas City region)

Subject: SJR 48 and HJR 68 – Testimony for Information Purposes

Please consider this testimony regarding SJR 48 and HJR 68.  We neither support nor oppose the resolution as introduced, but want to offer our perspective.

[1] – Taking Care of the System.  We acknowledge the need for additional funding for MoDOT to keep the existing system of roads and bridges in a state of good repair.  Director Dave Nichols cites a need for $485 million per year to do that, and says he expects to have only $325 million per year beginning in 2017.  We support closing that $160 million gap.

[2] – Need for Transit.  Missouri needs to provide significant additional funding for rural and urban public transit.  We are at or near the bottom among states with significant urban populations in providing state support for transit.  Moreover, if it makes sense for the state to provide farm-to-market roads, it also makes sense to provide “workforce-to-workplace” transit.

[3] – Changing Demographics and Preferences.  Our senior population is growing, along with an increasing inclination for young people to postpone or forego getting a driver’s license.  Nationally, driving peaked about 2006.  Thus, there is an increased need for public transit, and also for intercity passenger rail service such as that provided by our Missouri River Runner trains.

[4] – Concern About the Sales Tax – User Pays Principle.  We are aware of broad concern about using a sales tax to fund an expanded road and bridge program.  That would be a dramatic departure from the long-standing “user-pays” principle for roads and bridges, using the motor fuels tax, vehicle registration fees, and the sales tax on motor vehicles.  To the extent possible, road and bridge costs should be borne by the users and passed through to ultimate consumers as part of the overall cost of goods and services.

[5] – Concern About the Sales Tax – Regressivity.  We are aware that the sales tax is among the most regressive taxes, with the burden falling disproportionately on low-income workers.  These are the very workers who are less likely to drive and more likely to rely on public transit.

[6] – Concern About the Sales Tax – Local Needs.  We are aware of many local needs for which public officials look to a local sales tax.  Thus, there’s reluctance on the part of local public officials to get behind a significant increase in the state sales tax.

[7] – National Discussion on Funding for Roads and Bridges.  There is broad recognition that there are structural problems with total reliance on the motor fuels tax (due in part to changes in energy sources for motor vehicles), and that a shift toward a broader array of user fees makes sense.  We suggest that this might not be the time for Missouri to shift to the sales tax for roads and bridges while other revenue sources are under consideration.  We also suggest that ten years might be too long to commit to a sales tax while other user-based revenue sources are still being considered.

[8] – Here’s What We Think Might Have Greater Appeal.  We believe the following might have greater appeal to voters, as well as to local elected officials:

a – A smaller and shorter-term transportation funding program.

b – An increase in a combination of existing user fees to fund needed improvements to the existing road and bridge system

c – A small increase in the sales tax — as little as two-tenths of one cent — to fund improved and expanded rural and urban public transit, and to stabilize funding for the state-sponsored Missouri River Runner trains operated by Amtrak.

Thank you for considering our testimony.


Posted in Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Missouri’s Transportation Future – Our Latest Analysis

Posted by Transit Action Network on November 21, 2013

On November 18, MoDOT called its regional planning partners to Jeff City to lay out the process for developing a list of projects that would accompany a transportation funding question that could be on the November, 2014, ballot. That question — should it clear the necessary hurdles either through the initiative petition process or by act of the 2014 General Assembly — would ask Missouri voters to approve a one-cent increase in the state sales tax for a period of ten years, producing a total of about $8 billion. The project list would let voters see what they’d be getting. It’s all about accountability, and accountability is good.

Before saying any more we should remind our readers that the penny sales tax is still just a proposal — albeit the most-often discussed proposal — by which Missouri would get additional money for transportation purposes. As we’ve reported previously, there are rumblings of opposition to the proposal. Whether proponents — including highway contractors and chambers of commerce and others having a stake in improving highways — will be able to raise enough money to finance a petition process and then an election campaign to pass the measure, is still unknown. Read our earlier entry:

Based on a briefing by MoDOT and MARC staff at the November 19 meeting of MARC’s Total Transportation Policy Committee, it appears that a lot less is set in stone than we had expected. Moreover, indications are that MoDOT is willing to have the project list include just about anything — anything transportation-related, of course.

A tentative spending plan circulated by MoDOT earlier this year had well over $1 billion coming off the top for reconstruction of the 200 rural miles of I-70 as a six-lane freeway. That is no longer a given. Even the idea of building six lanes all the way is apparently no longer to be taken for granted. That shift in itself is real progress.

Vision for MOUnder MoDOT’s plan, its regional planning partners — Metropolitan Planning Organizations like Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City and East-West Gateway Coordinating Council in St. Louis, plus Regional Planning Councils throughout the rest of the state — will develop their priority lists between now and next June.

Meanwhile, MoDOT will develop a very general plan for how the projected $8 billion dollar pie would be carved up among categories of needs and jurisdictions. It’s anybody’s guess what that might look like. There might well be a few slices off the top:
– A slice for I-70, as has previously been discussed?
– A slice for public transit, to be divided among the state’s dozen or so transit providers?
– A slice to assure funding for the Missouri River Runner passenger trains between Kansas City and St. Louis.
– Maybe even a slice for some hypothetical “challenge grant” programs to help local communities do long-needed smaller projects?

Whatever off-the-top slices there might be for statewide needs and programs, there would also be an allocation to each of MoDOT’s seven districts for projects to be decided in consultation with MPO’s and RPC’s.

Sound complicated? Well, it probably is, and we have a hunch that even MoDOT’s top staff don’t know yet how it’s going to play out.

What we do know is that we’ve never before seen a proposed spending program that is so open to public involvement and input.

That’s where you come in.MOTM

[1] – MoDOT’s draft long-range plan, “A Vision for Missouri’s Transportation Future,” is now out for a 45-day comment period. Here’s the website:
Throughout the site you’ll find opportunities to click on an orange box and let MoDOT know what you think. Do it!

[2] – Get involved in MARC’s ongoing long-range transportation plan update process:
Begin with MARC’s online survey about priorities:

Transportation_Outlook_2040A final note. We’ve noted before that there are reasons to be concerned about passing a sales tax for transportation and nothing else, while highway user fees are among the lowest in the nation. Perhaps legislators will take that concern seriously in January and devise a revenue package that gives MoDOT enough to keep it going while also meeting other important state investment needs. Meanwhile, it’s important that we play along while we press MoDOT and its planning partners to devise as progressive and inclusive a transportation investment program as possible.

Posted in Action, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Proposed Missouri Sales Tax for Transportation Passes Senate

Posted by Transit Action Network on April 8, 2013

On March 14 the Missouri Senate passed SJR 16, a resolution that would ask Missouri voters to approve a one-cent sales tax for transportation for a period of ten years.  The vote was 24-10.  See “Current Bill Summary” on the Senate website for current status:MO_senate

The resolution is now in the House where a nearly identical resolution has been under consideration.  We have heard reports that this one-cent sales tax proposal might not get out of the House this year, but that it might instead serve as the basis for an initiative petition campaign financed largely by highway interests.  Thus, it’s important to continue to try to make this resolution as “transit-friendly” as possible.

The resolution is not entirely to the liking of Missouri transit and bike/ped interests since it doesn’t include a specific percentage of the new revenue for non-highway purposes such as local and rural public transit, Amtrak and other inter-city passenger transportation, and improved accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists.  However, it could turn out OK depending on what’s in MoDOT’s “list of projects” that will be prepared prior to the measure’s going on the ballot.  Our impression is that MoDOT has become a whole lot more friendly to non-highway modes of transportation and thus all is not lost.

Below is the “Current Bill Summary” from the Senate website, along with our annotations and comments [Italicized, in color and enclosed in brackets].

SJR 16 – Imposes a temporary one cent sales and use tax for transportation purposes

Current Bill Summary
SS#2/SCS/SJR 16 – This constitutional proposal, if approved by the Missouri voters, would raise the state sales and use tax by one percent for a period of ten years. The proceeds from the additional sales and use tax [estimated to be a total of approximately $7.92 billion over ten years] are to be used for transportation purposes. The temporary sales and use tax measure must be resubmitted to the voters every 10 years until such measure is defeated.

 [The matter of whether to use a general revenue source such as the sales tax to fund highways and other transportation purposes is an important tax policy question that we believe needs further debate.]

Five percent of the sales and use tax proceeds shall be deposited into the County Aid Transportation Fund, which is created in the state treasury by the resolution. Moneys in the newly created fund shall be distributed to the various Missouri counties in a manner similar to how motor fuel tax proceeds are distributed to counties. [A portion of existing state fuel taxes and other user fees is already distributed to counties.] The sales and use tax proceeds distributed to the counties may be used for local highways and bridges, state highway system purposes, or for county transportation system purposes (multimodal).

[“Multimodal” is an ambiguous term meaning any mode of transportation other than roads and bridges.] 

In a similar manner, five percent of the sales and use tax proceeds shall be deposited into the Municipal Aid Transportation Fund, which is created in the state treasury by the resolution. Moneys in the newly created fund shall be distributed to the various Missouri cities, towns and villages in a manner similar to how motor fuel tax proceeds are distributed to such political subdivisions. [A portion of existing state fuel taxes and other user fees is already distributed to cities and other local jurisdictions.]  The sales and use tax proceeds distributed to the cities, towns, and villages may be used for local roads and streets, state highway system purposes and uses, or for city transportation system purposes (multimodal).

 [For reference, our estimate of Kansas City, Missouri’s per capita share of the proposed sales tax is approximately $30.4 million over the ten years. 

$7.92b x .05 x (2010 population KCMO / Missouri: 460k / 5.989m = 0.0768) = $30.4m or about $3 million per year

 Our $3 million estimate uses a distribution method based on population. Actual distribution of new revenue to cities and counties would be according to a more complicated formula.

More than 25 percent of current highway user fees (fuel taxes, vehicle registration and driver license fees, and vehicle sales taxes) is passed through to cities and towns.  Ten percent of the new sales tax for counties and cities/towns/villages would thus represent a significantly lower share of the new revenue than they get at present: it would be an increase in revenue to such jurisdictions, but a lesser share of the state total.]

The remaining sales and use tax proceeds (90%) shall be deposited into a newly created trust fund known as the “Transportation Sales Tax Fund”. Moneys in the Transportation Sales Tax Fund may be expended by the commission for state highway system purposes or for state transportation system purposes and uses (multimodal).

 [Early press reports about SJR 16 have indicated there would be an off-the-top allocation of $1 billion or more for reconstruction of I-70 between Independence and Warrenton. Those accounts have incorrectly conflated the Resolution itself with a preliminary spending scenario that MoDOT has floated in a four-page color brochure. MoDOT has been using that scenario in discussing the update to its long-range transportation plan that is currently underway through “On the Move” listening sessions being held throughout the state. Based on our participation in those sessions, as well as accounts we have read, we believe it is reasonable to conclude that MoDOT’s initial scenario will not survive as prepared.]

The resolution requires the one percent sales and use tax to expire in 10 years unless the sales and use tax is renewed by the voters. If the decennial sales and use tax measure is ever disapproved by the Missouri voters, the sales and use tax will terminate at the end of the year following such election.

Unless approved by the voters, the General Assembly, counties, and municipalities are prohibited from increasing or decreasing the motor fuel tax from the rate of the tax authorized by law on January 1, 2013, while the sales and use tax is in effect

[On careful reading, this provision does not actually promise that the fuel tax would not be raised, only that it would not be raised without a vote of the people — which would be required in any case.  Given that Missouri ranks 45th in the amount of its motor fuels tax, such an increase still makes a lot of sense with or without the sales tax.]

Unless approved by the voters, the commission shall not own or operate a toll highway or toll bridge on a state highway or bridge that is in existence on the effective date of this resolution while the sales and use tax is in effect. A similar provision applies to counties and municipalities. Unless approved by the Missouri voters, counties and municipalities are prohibited from tolling existing highways or bridges under their jurisdiction during the duration of the sales and use tax.

[Again, the “unless approved by voters” clause doesn’t actually prevent Missouri from having one or more toll roads at some point during the ten years, if voter attitudes change.]

The act requires, prior to any election to which the sales and use tax proposal is submitted to the voters, the commission to approve a list of projects, programs, and facilities on the state highway system and state transportation system that will be funded from the additional sales and use tax proceeds.

[While “list of projects” might be interpreted by most people to mean highways or bridges, the inclusion of the word “programs” is encouraging.  Thus, the “list of projects” developed by MoDOT might well include such things as an annual allocation for OATS and other rural transit systems throughout the state related to the rapid growth in the senior population as “baby boomers” retire. Additional programs might include an annual allocation to urban transit systems for capital expenditures or operating assistance, an annual allocation to continue and increase the frequency of “Missouri River Runner” passenger trains operated by Amtrak, etc.]

Starting in the 1st fiscal year following voter approval of the resolution, the commission shall annually submit a report to the Governor, General Assembly and the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight that shall include the status of the approved list of projects, programs and facilities on the state highway system and state transportation system.

In the annual report filed in the 6th fiscal year following voter approval of the resolution, if the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight identifies and determines that any project, program or facility on the commission’s approved list has not yet been included in the commission’s statewide transportation improvement program, then the joint committee by two-thirds majority of its members, shall identify each specific project, program or facility that has not been included in the commission’s statewide transportation improvement program and shall within 30 legislative days recommend suspension of appropriations from the transportation sales tax fund in an amount that is equivalent to the amount of funds necessary for each specific project, program or facility that was not included.

 [Provisions in the above two paragraphs help to keep MoDOT “honest” with respect to the list of projects.]

Under the resolution, the General Assembly may approve the recommendation of the joint committee by enactment of a concurrent resolution. Such resolution may be introduced in either legislative chamber no later than 14 calendar days after receipt of the joint committee’s recommendation. The resolution shall not be subject to amendment by either chamber and may only be approved in its entirety. The presiding officer of each legislative chamber in which a concurrent resolution has been introduced, shall submit it to a vote of the membership not sooner than 7 calendar days nor later than 14 calendar days after introduction of the concurrent resolution. The presiding officer of the chamber passing a concurrent resolution shall immediately forward the resolution to the other chamber and the presiding officer of that chamber shall submit it to a vote of the membership not sooner than 7 calendar days or later than 14 calendar days of its receipt from the other legislative chamber.

Any suspension of the appropriations from the transportation sales tax fund shall be null and void when the highways and transportation commission amends its statewide transportation improvement program to include each project, program and facility identified in the joint committee’s recommendation.

 [End of Current Bill Summary]

Posted in Local Transit Issues, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Attend MoDOT Long-Range Plan Meetings in Kansas City – March 12, 13 and 14

Posted by Transit Action Network on March 11, 2013

MOTMMoDOT is inviting input on the latest update of its long-range transportation, “On the Move.” It is extremely important that transit advocates attend the meetings to make sure transit is a priority.

The project website says,
“On the Move is a community engagement effort led by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to gather direction and insight from Missourians on major transportation issues and priorities across the state.”
Three “listening sessions” are scheduled for Kansas City this week.

KCI Expo Center, Ambassador Room
11730 NW Ambassador Drive , Kansas City, MO, 64153
March 12, 2013 6:00 pm
Link to RSVP: 
UMKC, Atterbury Student Success Center, Pierson Auditorium
5000 Holmes Street, Kansas City, MO, 64110
March 13, 2013 5:00 pm
Link to RSVP:  
Union Station, Chamber Board Room
30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO, 64108
March 14, 2013 5:00 pm
Link to RSVP:

Mo_transit_fundingMoDOT is asking for RSVP’s to attend these sessions, but we encourage you to attend even if you have not RSVP’d.

While the purpose of the meetings seems simple enough — to gain public input to update the LRTP — it’s complicated by the fact that legislation is moving through the Missouri General Assembly to put a one-penny sales tax for transportation on the ballot in 2014.  That tax would be for a ten-year period, and would fund a list of specific projects. 

Thus, there’s some ambiguity about whether these meetings are just about long-range needs, or whether they are also about coming up with a project list.  Even top MoDOT staff have not been able to express clearly how the listening sessions will relate to the project list.

Our hope is that the listening sessions will stay focused on the big picture — Missourians’ long-term needs and desires — rather than individual projects.  Ask people about long-term needs and that’s what they’ll think and talk about.  Ask them what projects they want and the session could turn into a “my project is more important than yours” contest.

Nonetheless, transit advocates need to attend the listening sessions this week to help assure that additional funding for transit is included in whatever package is ultimately presented to the voters. Identify and prioritize the long-term needs and desires first, then choose projects to fulfill that list.

We suggest you take the following perspective into whichever listening session you attend:

  •  Roads and bridges are important, but Missouri also needs to increase its investment in other transportation alternatives.
  • Missouri’s population is aging, and with that goes an increased need for both urban and rural public transit.  Missouri currently provides less than $1 million per year to all transit providers combined — only $119,000 this year for KCATA.  Nearly every other state with an urban population invests much more in transit.
  •  More and more people are voting with their pocket books to drive less and use transit more.  That’s reflected in the decline in the percent of adults who have a driver’s license, a trend that’s evident in every age group but especially among young adults.
  •  MoDOT should continue to add accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians along its routes, particularly in cities and towns.
  • Missouri needs a stable source of funding to continue and increase the popular “Missouri River Runner” trains linking Kansas City and St. Louis.  These trains are operated by Amtrak but funded by Missouri.

So please attend one of the meetings and tell them to make transit a priority.

You can also express what you want to see in Missouri’s transportation future online.

See The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri’s Transportation Needs Final Report 2013

Posted in Events, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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:

  1. 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.]
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

MOstateflagIs 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.

Action Needed There are two ways transit advocates and organizations need to be involved over the coming months:MOTM

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.

Upcoming meetings:

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:

MOTM meetings:

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:

Posted in Action, Events, Regional Transit Issue | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »