WHAT OTHERS SAY: Transportation sales tax is inequitable, inconsistent, ill-advised

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 | 11:45 a.m. CDT; updated 1:41 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Regrettably, Missourians who care about the future of their transportation system have been presented with just one funding option on the August ballot: a poor one.

Multiple studies and recommendations, including those issued last week, support the need to improve and maintain our expansive system of major highways, lettered state roads, bridges, airports and railroad infrastructure.

In the details, there is much that is obvious and some expensive items that should be questioned — either for their necessity or their urgency. But it's hard to argue these spending proposals have not been studied in detail and prioritized in partnership with interested citizens around the state.

You cannot say the same for various credible transportation funding ideas that never saw the light of day or for the suspect one that has made it to the ballot in the form of Amendment 7.

It's as if those who championed placing this before voters knew what they had:

1. An ill-advised increase of three-fourths of a cent to the already spiraling sales tax.

It's time our elected leaders recognize they do not operate in a vacuum. From St. Louis to Kansas City and St. Joseph, the sales tax is reaching a previously unthinkable area: double digits.

2. A massive shift in responsibility for highway funding.

Historically, roads in Missouri have been funded by the users — primarily by taxes that motorists and truck operators pay on fuel and vehicle purchases.

The ballot plan amounts to what is said to be the largest tax increase in state history, a projected $5.3 billion to $6.1 billion over 10 years. And it apparently would mark the first time general sales tax revenues have been earmarked for roads and bridges.

This matters because lower-income residents pay a higher proportion of their incomes in sales tax but use the highways less than average. Meanwhile, the truck operators who stand to benefit greatly from road investments hardly would be impacted.

3. A restrictive plan that locks in inequity.

By passing this measure, voters will take any consideration of toll roads off the table and commit to not raising our sixth-lowest-in-the-nation gas tax during the duration of the higher sales tax.

As a result, there is every reason to think our method for funding highways will appear even less equitable a decade from now.

Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by the Associated Press.

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