Missouri changes course to secure additional transportation funding

Signature gathering to place a transportation sales and use tax on the November ballot has been halted.  Bill McKenna, the treasurer for Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs, said this week that his group is redirecting its efforts to secure legislative approval to put the issue before voters.

The group needed to collect 170,000 signatures by May 4 in order for the measure to be included on the November ballot.  That’s a difficult hurdle, compounded by a pending lawsuit by the Missouri Association of Social Welfare challenging the ballot language.

Securing approval by the General Assembly and signature by Gov. Jay Nixon may be an easier road to take to address Missouri’s decreasing transportation funding.

Currently under consideration by the Missouri Legislature is:  House Joint Resolution 68, and Senate Joint Resolution 48. HJR 68 was heard in the House Transportation committee and Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel, testified on its behalf.

There is good reason for Missouri to remain diligent in addressing this growing problem.  At the Missouri Transportation Conference last month, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Dave Nichols warned that that MODOT’s construction funding would drop from this year’s budget level of $685 million to $325 million by 2017.  Until more funding is found, no new transportation projects will be added to the state’s five-year spending plan and a local cost-share program will be suspended.  Even with those changes, funding will fall below what is needed to fully fund state maintenance.

Missouri is not alone in its transportation funding woes.  As gas taxes continue to lose buying power and federal funding remain uncertain, many states have felt the pain of working with fewer and fewer transportation dollars.  According to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, several have taken action to fix their problems.  State legislatures in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed transportation funding increases last year after years of deadlock.  Maryland, Ohio, Vermont and Wyoming also passed significant transportation packages.  Pew reports that transportation is expected to be an important part of debate in Delaware, Iowa, Oregon and Washington.

For more information on transportation issues, contact Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber General Counsel and governmental affairs, at jatkins@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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