AIM, MTD testify in favor of highway funding bill

Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) and the Missouri Transportation Development Council (MTD) spoke out in favor of a plan to raise funding for highway projects in Missouri during a hearing in a House committee this week.

Ray McCarty, representing both AIM and MTD,  told members of the House Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon that Senate Bill 623, sponsored by Sen. Doug Libla, is important to keep the state’s roads up to par.

The bill would raise the state tax on fuel by 5.9 cents per gallon to 22.9 cents per gallon. The increase would raise about $120 million dollars MoDOT could use to rebuild bridges and maintain the state’s roadways and more for local government road improvements.

“The condition of our roads is all-important to our state’s economy,” said McCarty. “From getting people and goods to and from our businesses to the just-in-time needs of our state’s manufacturers, Missouri needs to maintain good roads. Transportation is one of the top factors in location decisions made by businesses.”

The last time the state’s gas tax was raised was in 1996. Pat McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the state is falling behind.

“We’re dealing with literally 50 percent of the purchasing power that we had the last time the gas tax was raised,” he said, noting that the state’s 17 cent gas tax is essentially worth only 8 cents a gallon.

Libla’s bill includes a referendum clause, meaning that Missouri voters would have the final say on a fuel tax increase.

Members of the committee were generally supportive of a rise in the gas tax, though some worried about a no-tax backlash from some legislators and citizens.

The committee did not take action on the legislation.