Highway Dollars: Does Washington Give Missouri Its Fair Share?
Often, when discussing the impending funding crisis at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), many residents are skeptical of the need to increase state user fees like the fuel tax. Why should Missouri raise fuel taxes or implement tolling when the federal government takes money from the state? The argument is that if the federal government just returned Missouri’s share of federal fuel tax revenue (among other user fees), the state would have more than enough money.
Unfortunately, the idea that Missouri is getting the short end of the stick on federal fuel taxes is mistaken. In fact, since 2000, Missouri has gotten more from the federal highway trust fund than it put in. The latest official data shows that in 2013 Missouri got back about $1.17 for every highway user dollar it sent to Washington. In fact, in 2013 only one state (Texas) did not receive what amounts to a federal subsidy for its highway spending, as the map below demonstrates:
There have been years, specifically in the 1990s, when Missouri put more into the federal highway trust fund than it got out. But, since the inception of the state highway system in 1956, Missouri has gotten back about $1.06 for every $1.00 it sent to Washington in terms of fuel taxes and other user fees. Only Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina can claim to have given more than they have gotten back over the last 60 years. The map below shows this in detail:
Simply put, the federal government cannot be accused of precipitating a funding crisis at MoDOT and will not be able to solve Missouri’s problems by remitting fuel tax dollars. The fact is that Missouri already receives federal subsidies for its highways, and any more assistance likewise would be a subsidy to highway users.