Amendment 7: The Policy Breakdown
As the vote on Missouri Amendment 7 approaches, proponents have gone to the newspapers, airwaves, and television screens to argue for the necessity of a 0.75 percent statewide transportation sales tax. Their main arguments, and opponents’ arguments in responses, are as follows:
- Proponent Argument: Missouri’s Roads and Bridges are Crumbling
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will not have enough money to maintain the current highway system by 2017, and the infrastructure is in immediate need of repair. Many of the state’s roads and bridges are currently in poor condition.
o Opponent Argument: Missouri’s state highway system has specific needs, such as improving I-70 or replacing deficient bridges. However, the system is not crumbling. In fact, the Reason Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce Foundation have ranked Missouri’s highway system among the best in the nation. Missouri just completed a decade of unprecedented spending on the highway system, adding lanes, repairing bridges, and smoothing roads. The highway system is in better shape than it has been in decades and MoDOT’s funding problems are not evidence that the system is about to collapse.
- Proponent Argument: A 0.75 percent statewide sales tax is a reasonable method of paying for roads and bridges.
We all benefit from transportation, so we should all pay. Many products are exempt from the sales tax, shielding the poor. In addition, gas taxes and tolling either cannot or are too unpopular to implement.
o Opponent Argument: A statewide sales tax is an unfair, economically unsound way to pay for highways. Those who drive little will pay as much or more for new roads as truckers and people with long commutes. Using sales taxes to pay for roads subsidizes driving, which increase congestion and pollution. All Missouri consumers, even the poor, can expect to pay much higher taxes from this 17.75 percent state sales tax increase. Furthermore, user fees, such as higher gasoline taxes or tolls, can continue to provide adequate funding for MoDOT, as they have already done for decades. Spending more time educating Missourians about the best way to fund highways, and less time heralding the imminent collapse of Missouri’s roads and bridges, might demonstrate that gasoline taxes and tolls are more popular solutions.
Sales tax proponents essentially argue that Missouri’s transportation is in crisis and that a .75 percent statewide tax increase is the only reasonable and available solution to that crisis. However, skeptics of the proposed amendment counter that Missouri’s highway system is not in a crisis situation and there is time to select fair and economically sound policy solutions to MoDOT’s funding problem.