With apologies to The Rolling Stones, I write today about the Missouri Legislature’s passage of HB 1460. The bill would place before Missouri voters a November ballot measure to raise the state motor fuel tax gradually until it became 27 cents per gallon in July 2022. The measure would also raise the tax on compressed and liquefied natural gas to 27 cents per gallon equivalent beginning in 2026.
No one is eager to pay more taxes, but as my former Show-Me Institute colleague Joe Miller wrote in 2015:
Much of the [Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT)] problem lies in the gradual deterioration of the user-fee funding base of MoDOT, specifically the state fuel tax. The fuel tax last increased in 1996, and Missouri now has the country’s fifth lowest regular gasoline tax and fourth lowest diesel fuel tax.
Miller later discussed the MoDOT funding problem in his February 2016 policy study. The reasons stem from a decline in revenue from user fees such as the fuel tax, an increase in highway construction costs, and the resulting risk of losing federal matching dollars. Miller explored several possible solutions, including tolling and increasing fuel taxes, and even the pros and cons of doing so (see page 28 of the study).
The money needed to maintiain our transportation infrastructure will have to come from somewhere. Voters were correct to reject the statewide sales tax proposed in 2014. User fees such as a fuel tax are vastly more fair.
I look forward to participating in the public debate over the role of the government in providing for infrastructure, the needs and benefits of maintaining a healthy highway system, and the most efficient way of doing both.