New Bill Would Raise Missouri Fuel Tax, Cut Highway Miles
Recently, we discussed a couple of pre-filed bills that would raise the fuel tax in Missouri to avert a funding crisis at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). But raising the fuel tax is not the only proposal on the table, and one bill (SJR 18) proposes a solution that could aid MoDOT’s financial situation over the long term: reducing the size of the state highway system.
SJR 18 has two parts. The first part would increase the state’s regular fuel tax by 1.5 cents per gallon and the state’s diesel fuel tax by 3.5 cents per gallon. This increase has the potential to net MoDOT around $60 million in additional revenue annually, which would put off any immediate funding crisis for the state.
However, SJR 18 is different from other fuel tax increase proposals in that it also contains provisions for transferring responsibility for the state’s “supplementary” highway system to localities. The supplementary system is mostly made up of the state’s letter routes, but also includes urban streets like Gravois Road in Saint Louis and MO Route 283 in Kansas City. We’ve discussed before how these routes eat up a significant portion of MoDOT’s budget. These types of roads are maintained by counties and municipalities in most other states.
SJR 18 would not simply hand off the supplementary highway system to localities without any aid. The state would continue to provide localities with financial support for the transferred roads (fixed at the average spending of the last three years on that road). This means that in the short-term, MoDOT would spend the same amount on these highways as it does today. However, over the long term this spending would be capped, with local governments responsible for increased investment.
SJR 18—which would require a vote of the people before being enacted—is an interesting policy proposal that addresses both short-term and long-term financial problems at MoDOT. It does not encompass a large tax increase, and instead focuses on capping long-term spending as a method of setting MoDOT’s funding on firm footing.