JEFFERSON CITY — State transportation leaders would like to ask voters to raise taxes next year. But so far, they can’t agree on what taxes to raise, what projects to fund and who should head up the effort.
The chairmen of the House and Senate transportation committees have proposed their own transportation tax packages with hopes of putting them on the August 2008 ballot. But both said Monday that prospects for legislative approval appear iffy and a better route may be an initiative petition by citizens.
An initiative, however, also poses a “daunting” challenge for next year, said Rodney Gray, an attorney and transportation lobbyist who headed the campaign for an unsuccessful transportation tax proposal in 2002.
So far, there have been only preliminary discussions about a ballot initiative, which likely would need to be crafted yet this year to conduct public opinion polling and gather petition signatures by the May 4 deadline, Gray said.
“I don’t feel like there’s a consensus yet,” said Gray, one of the roughly 100 people who attended a transportation funding meeting sponsored Monday by the Missouri Transportation and Development Council.
Bill Stouffer, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, has proposed a 1-cent sales tax, generating $7.2 billion over 10 years. The money would be used to rebuild Interstate 70 and Interstate 44 with four lanes in each direction, two each for big trucks and other vehicles.
Neal St. Onge, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has proposed to raise $4.1 billion over six years through a one-half cent sales tax plus a variety of higher fuel taxes and vehicle license fees. His plan would rebuild Interstate 70 with separate truck and vehicle lanes in each direction while also directing more money to other roads and modes of transportation.
Separately, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, has proposed a constitutional amendment allowing the Missouri Department of Transportation to operate toll roads.
The two transportation committee chairmen plan to host a joint hearing July 31 in Jefferson City with testimony from an assistant federal transportation secretary and others in the road-building industry.