Could a Fuel Tax Increase Get on the Ballot in Missouri?
Recently, the Missouri State Senate gave preliminary approval for a 5.9 cent fuel tax increase proposal to go before the voters this year. The bill in question, Senate Bill 623, originally proposed a 1.5-cent increase in the regular fuel tax and a 3.5-cent increase in the diesel fuel tax. That proposal would not have had to go before voters. The new proposal, which could raise an additional $165 million per year for the state highway system, gives Missourians a chance to accept or reject the idea of a fuel tax increase.
We’ve discussed fuel taxes on this blog many times before, and have made the case that it is a fair and sound method of funding state highways. Missouri has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the country, and even if voters approve the tax increase Missouri will still have a lower tax than Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa. However, given the increased revenue the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has received in recent years, a 5.9-cent increase may be a bit high. Another less-appealing aspect of the proposal is that the tax increase would apply equally to regular and diesel fuel, even though a large truck does far more damage to roadways than a passenger vehicle. The bill is far from being passed and improvements can still be made, perhaps lowering the total amount of the proposed increase and reintroducing a higher rate for diesel fuel.
Should the Missouri Senate give the proposal final approval, the House would also have to pass the measure before it could go on the ballot in the fall.
To read more about funding MoDOT and State Highway System, read out new paper here.