State Senate gives preliminary approval to highway funding bill

The Missouri Senate Thursday gave first round approval to legislation that will raise the state tax on gasoline by 1.5 cents per gallon and the tax on diesel by 3.5 cents per gallon.

After lengthy debate, the Senate voted 18-13 to perfect the bill with a change from Sen. Rob Schaaf that not only raises the fuel tax by a smaller amount than suggested by the original version of Senate Bill 540, but also creates a committee that will assess public-private partnerships. Those partnerships are most often used to create and oversee toll roads.

SB 540, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla (R-West Plains) originally called for the fuel tax to be raised by 6 cents per gallon over three years and to automatically adjust for inflation in future years.  Meeting with objection from many senators, he then sought to reduce the increase to 2 cents per gallon. Schaaf’s amendment lowered the increase on gasoline even further to 1.5 cents per gallon, but raised the tax more on diesel fuel to 3.5 cents per gallon.  Schaaf originally called for the fuel tax increase to go to a vote of the people, but after holding the floor for several hours, he finally yielded on that point.

Senator Will Kraus then amended Schaaf’s proposal to require any public private partnership proposal to be approved first by the General Assembly.

The bill now faces a final vote in the Senate before moving on to the House of Representatives.