New Gas Tax Bills Highlight Missouri’s Transportation Needs
Missouri’s roads are getting some attention from the legislature. Two nearly identical bills that would increase Missouri’s fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon over five years (but through different processes) have been filed in the Missouri Senate. This increase would be carried out in 2 cent increments each year.
Both bills would place the question of raising the gas tax before Missouri voters. One would require a statewide vote to change Missouri’s current law regarding fuel tax rates, and the other would require a statewide vote to enshrine the new fuel tax rates in Missouri’s constitution. Missouri’s fuel tax has remained at 17 cents per gallon since 1996, and a 10-cent increase today would roughly adjust it for inflation since then. However, the full 10-cent increase under these bills would not be in place until 2026, and we can expect further inflation during the extra five years. Still, if our gas tax is five years behind inflation in 2026, that would be an improvement over the current 25-year gap.
The extra funds would provide a boost for Missouri’s roads. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that roughly $745 million in high-priority road and bridge repair and maintenance go unfunded each year. The most recent proposal in 2018 to increase fuel taxes by 10 cents per gallon was estimated on the ballot to raise an additional $400 million each year for road and bridge maintenance. The current proposals would likely reach this mark after the full 10-cent per gallon increase is reached after five years.
While voters have rejected fuel tax and road-dedicated sales tax increases in the past decade, research suggests that voters may now be amenable to increasing fuel taxes. A recent report from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce found that 85 percent of Missourians believe more money should be directed to road maintenance.
Specifically, drivers were asked about their support for a 10-cent fuel tax increase to repair Missouri’s roads. The report found that 45 percent of drivers support such a fuel tax increase, but when respondents were informed that it would cost an average driver $5 extra per month, 51 percent supported raising the gas tax 10 cents and adjusting its 1996 levels to current costs.
Ultimately, both fuel tax bills would have to navigate the Missouri Legislature before reaching voters, but the recent support may be the extra boost they need.