Citing its long history of support for transportation in Missouri, Ray McCarty of the Missouri Transportation Development Council (MTD) and Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) Wednesday threw the organizations’ support behind a state Senate bill aimed at increasing funding for the state’s road and bridge fund.
Senate Bill 623, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff), raises the tax on gasoline by 1.5 cents per gallon to 18.5 cents per gallon. The tax on diesel fuel would increase by 3.5 cents per gallon to 20.5 cents per gallon under the bill. The legislation received a hearing Wednesday (1/13) before the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
McCarty addressed the committee, stressing that MTD had always supported the efforts of the MoDOT in improving the state’s highway system. MTD helped lead the effort for the first large statewide bond issue to bring the state’s roads literally out of the mud. And it was a former head of MTD that, as a state legislator, filed the bill that created the Missouri Department of Transportation.
McCarty told committee members that the bill was only a partial solution to the funding problems that currently beset MoDOT. Despite a report earlier this week that the agency will be able to use cash reserves to match and draw down federal funding for road and bridge maintenance, McCarty and his organization believe that more funding needs to be available to design and build projects that will move Missouri forward into the future.
“Transportation is critically important to our members for the movement of raw materials, finished goods and employees, especially with today’s ‘just-in-time-delivery’ of raw materials,” said McCarty. “Transportation consistently ranks in the top five factors for businesses choosing a new location or looking at expansion of their businesses, along with availability of an educated workforce, real estate prices, and tax environment/incentives.”
McCarty suggested changing the bill’s language to include equal raises for both gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Currently, Missouri’s 17 cents per gallon tax ranks the state 47th in the country.
The bill received favorable comments from cities and several statewide organizations, as well as the state and several local chambers of commerce. A new transportation advocacy group, the Mercury Alliance, also testified in favor of the bill.
As is customary, the committee did not take action on the bill, but may consider moving the bill in the next committee hearing.