Partial fix for transportation funding shortfall heard in Senate committee

With Missouri lawmakers still searching for a way to fund needed improvements to the state’s transportation system, a Senate committee has taken up a fix that would simply allow Missouri to maintain its existing infrastructure.

Without legislative action, Missouri’s transportation budget will shrink to $325 million in 2017. That budget would force the Missouri Department of Transportation to maintain only 8,000 of the state’s 34,000 miles of roads in good condition. The rest of the system would only see basic maintenance, causing deteriorating, bumpy road conditions. If the low funding levels persist, dozens of Missouri bridges could eventually close.

To prevent that from happening, Sen. Doug Libla, a Republican from Poplar Bluff, has proposed Senate Bill 540. The bill would raise the state’s fuel tax from 17.3 cents per gallon to 23.3 cents per gallon over three years. Then the bill would annually raise the fuel tax for inflation.

“We’re at a critical point right now in the funding of our highways and it affects everybody,” Sen. Libla told a Senate committee during a hearing on the bill on March 18. “It effects everybody’s livelihood, it effects jobs, it effects the safety of the motoring public, and we need to move forward on this bill.”

Part of the urgency comes as Missouri stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds if it doesn’t act soon to properly fund the state’s transportation system.

Several of the state’s top fuel consumers, including a number of trucking companies, testified in support of raising the fuel tax.

“We’d be more than happy to pay more to fix our roads correctly,” said Mark Engemann, board president of the Missouri Dump Truckers Association.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports Sen. Libla’s bill, with some concern over the bill’s proposal to continually raise the tax each year for inflation. The Missouri Chamber would also like to see more urgency to pass a true solution enabling Missouri to not only maintain our existing infrastructure but to also make strategic investments that would help the state’s economy grow.

“We’re looking for a more comprehensive fix,” said Brian Bunten, Missouri Chamber assistant general counsel and director of legislative affairs. “However, we can’t ignore the fact that there’s a problem right now and we feel this bill addresses that problem.”

The focus on transportation funding comes as the Missouri 2030 plan calls for a greater emphasis on infrastructure in Missouri. A Missouri 2030 Gallup survey showed that only 37 percent of Missouri business leaders are satisfied with the state’s transportation system. Learn more about Missouri 2030 at www.MO2030.com.

For more information about transportation funding, contact Bunten at bbunten@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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