Voters reject increase in state sales tax for roads

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | 12:20 a.m. CDT

A three-quarter-cent increase in the state sales tax for roads and transportation was rejected by voters statewide and in Boone County by similar margins. The amendment received 590,963, or 59 percent, no votes and 407,532, or 41 percent, yes votes.

In Boone County, 15,130 voters, or 55 percent, turned down the measure that was supported by 12,368 voters, or 45 percent.

BALLOT: "Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three-quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?"

REACTION: "It's hard to pass an unfair tax increase in Missouri. That's what Amendment 7 was," said Terry Ganey of Columbia, a spokesman for Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions. "I hope the legislature goes back to square one if they think the roads need money."

Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs, which supported the amendment, expressed disappointment in a news release received at 10:19 p.m. as returns showed the issue failing.

"A lot of our road and bridge problems are, frankly, unseen," campaign manager Jewell Patek wrote in an email. "In the very near future, our problem is going to get worse and our transportation system is going to deteriorate rapidly. We simply cannot keep our roads in good repair without additional funding. We are committed to continuing this dialogue with Missourians to find a solution they will support."

IMPACT: The state sales tax will remain at 4.225 on the dollar. A list of projects promised by the state with voter approval included $68.8 million during the 10-year life of the tax for Columbia and Boone County. Major projects on the list included revamping the Interstate 70 and U.S. 63 interchange, improvements at Columbia Regional Airport and an extension of Stadium Boulevard.

Tim Teddy, director of community development for Columbia, said the outcome would have no impact on planned city projects but that state-funded projects such as extending Stadium Boulevard would have to wait.

The extension of Stadium Boulevard from its eastern terminus at U.S. 63 "exists on a city plan, but it's unconstrained, which means it's something the city would regard as important, but it just isn't going to happen," Teddy said. "We project forward about 20 years with existing revenue sources. ... With that one, we simply don't have enough, nor does the state have enough."

The additional funding would have helped the Missouri Department of Transportation shore up its construction budget that was projected to fall to $325 million in 2017.

The Transportation Department will hold a news conference Wednesday in Jefferson City to address the results of the election.

AT ISSUE: Opponents criticized the use of a sales tax because it will disproportionately affect low-income residents. A fairer alternative, they said, would be increasing the state fuel tax or collecting tolls — both ways to tax users. Critics also said the trucking industry should pay more because trucks cause the most damage to roads. Proponents cited the economic importance of a well-funded transportation network and said the state's roads and bridges would deteriorate without the tax.

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Ellis Smith August 6, 2014 | 5:31 a.m.

This particular proposal for highways may well have been the wrong one, but one way or another THIS ISSUE HAS TO BE ADDRESSED.

I am an engineer (retired) but I have no personal or financial stake in highway construction or maintenance. I am not a Civil Engineer - in more ways (employing another meaning of the word "civil") than one - nor have I ever worked for any highway or transportation department, state or federal, nor for government as an employee - except a brief voluntary stint in the military.

Highway and bridge maintenance must be properly addressed. The more deterioration allowed, the more expensive it will be for everyone in the long run.

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte August 6, 2014 | 5:52 a.m.

Ellis, I agree. I lean more toward the conservative side of the isle but this tax on the surface would affect lower income people more than the trucking and corporate industries who, in my opinion, should be paying more for highway maintenance. I agree that this problem won't just go away. Perhaps our legislature may now have to sit down and really earn their pay by deciding a better way to do this.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 6, 2014 | 7:46 a.m.

John Beaumonte:

I am ultra conservative and proud of it. I agree that a proposal should not disfavor poor folks, but unfortunately ALL sales taxes when applied to necessary items tend to fall in that direction.

Here's a thought regarding commercial carriers (which would be diesel fuel tax). Does anyone believe a moderate tax increase would cause a significant shift in east-west interstate traffic to going through Iowa or Arkansas? We do have I-80 in Iowa (and it's loaded with motor carriers), but Arkansas? I think such speculation is bogus.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 6, 2014 | 9:19 a.m.

It was hard to take the commercials stating that this was for critical transportation needs when the city said they would put a sidewalk in front of Oak Towers with their 5%/10% share of the funds. Keep it to roads and bridges, spent only by MODOT, and I'll support a gas tax increase. In fact, I think most people would support a gas tax increase for a reasonable proposal, but lawmakers convinced themselves that wouldn't pass without any evidence in my opinion.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 6, 2014 | 11:13 a.m.

John Schultz:

Amen, Brother John, AMEN!

Let us now pass the collection plate, for roads and bridges.

Since when can you legally drive passenger cars or large commercial vehicles on sidewalks? :)

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte August 7, 2014 | 5:59 a.m.

John & Ellis,
Good points!! Adding pork to bills has been the practice for a long time. Politicians are finding out that people are smarter than they have been given credit for and are letting it be known at the polls. My disgust for years has been the utter lack of interest in raising tobacco taxes in this state. Why should MO continue to be the lowest tobacco tax state and one of the, if not the highest, cancer and obesity contributing states? Makes no sense.

(Report Comment)

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