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Missouri Senate Scales Back Transportation Sales Tax Proposal

I-70 in Columbia
Credit via Flickr/KOMUnews
I-70 in Columbia

The Missouri Senate has passed a proposed constitutional amendment to create a temporary sales tax to fund transportation needs around the state, but not before scaling it back.

The proposal passed by the House earlier this month would have created a  1 percent sales tax over a 10-year period upon voter approval; it would expire automatically unless renewed again by voters.  The Senate adopted a substitute version of House Joint Resolution 68 to create a 0.75 percent transportation tax; it would not include a fuel tax increase, and it would guarantee that the sales tax would not be used to build any toll roads.  The alternate proposal would still allocate 5 percent of taxes collected for county transportation needs, be they roads, bridges, mass transit and another 5 percent for municipal needs.

Fuel tax increases and toll roads were not part of the original version of HJR 68, but state Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-J efferson City, said the substitute version contains language banning toll roads and fuel tax hikes as part of the proposal.  He also said the changes were a concession to avoid an expected filibuster.

"I'm trying to see if we can move something forward that is reasonable," Kehoe said, "that members in this chamber would support, and then our counterparts over in the House would take back up (and) support as well, and we could get it before a vote of the people, which I think is the most important piece of this whole legislation."

Fellow Republican John Lamping of Ladue is the proposal's most vocal opponent.  He and other fiscal conservatives in the Senate chose not to block it after Kehoe's concessions.  But Lamping still condemned the scaled-back proposal on the Senate floor, saying it would still be the single-largest tax increase in Missouri's history.

"If this were to pass, our sales tax burden would go from 7.58 percent to 8.33 percent…it would be the9th-largestcombined state and local sales tax in the country," Lamping said.  "What it would do for St. Louis city, St. Louis County … Jackson County (and other counties, it) would put the overall state and (local) sales tax burden either well above 10 percent, or within shouting distance of 10 percent."

Lamping and other fiscal conservatives successfully blocked a similar sales tax proposal last year.

Lamping also touted his own transportation proposal, which was filed back in January but hasn't been moved forward.  His resolution, SJR 43, would require that a portion of sales taxes for auto purchases be diverted to the state road fund.  Lamping also said that if the proposed tax cut bill (SB 509) sent to Gov. Jay Nixon becomes law that it would eventually generate the same amount of revenue for Missouri's transportation needs as the transportation sales tax.

House Joint Resolution 68 passed the Missouri Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 22-10.  It now goes back to the Missouri House.  In its current form it would raise around $534 million a year.

Kehoe and other supporters say the .75 percent sales tax is sorely needed.  In January, MoDOT Director Dave Nichols said that the department's construction budget was expected to drop to $325 million a year by 2017, and that $485 million is needed each year just to maintain Missouri's current transportation system.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:   @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2020 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit .

Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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