Missouri House & Senate put 10-cent fuel tax increase on the ballot - How will this affect people who walk, bicycle, use public transit?

By a vote of 88/60 the Missouri House has passed HB 1460, putting a 10 cent fuel tax increase on the ballot for a vote of the people.

State transportation funding has been a long-time priority
State transportation funding--including a fair share for people who walk & bicycle--has been a priority of our legislative work and Capitol Day for over a decade

The Senate passed the same measure yesterday by a 24/8 vote.

This puts the 10 cent fuel tax increase before Missouri voters later this year--most likely in November.

Ballot language

Shall Missouri law be amended to fund Missouri state law enforcement by increasing the motor fuel tax by two and one half cents per gallon annually for four years beginning July 1, 2019, exempt Special Olympic, Paralympic, and Olympic prizes from state taxes, and to establish the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund?

If passed, this measure will generate at least $288 million annually to the State Road Fund to provide for the funding of Missouri state law enforcement and $123 million annually to local governments for road construction and maintenance.

Bicycle & Pedestrian ramifications

The proposal directly funds the state Highway Patrol along with city and county transportation work.  Indirectly, it funds MoDOT--because current state road fund dollars are split between MoDOT and the Highway Patrol.

What are the ramifications for people who walk, bicycle, and use public transportation in Missouri?  Is this a proposal we can support?

Here are the ways this proposal will affect bicycling, walking, and transit:

  • $123 million to city & county transportation, where bicycle, pedestrian, transit is more likely to be funded.  There is no guarantee that this funding will be used to improved bicycling and walking in cities and counties, but cities and counties do have the option to do that if they have citizen support for it.
     
  • Easing MoDOT funding crunch should make the agency more willing to implement (at a minimum) simple, inexpensive bike/ped accommodations on the state highway system. 
     
  • Fuel tax increase approach to road & highway funding help insure that motorists are paying more of their fair share of the full costs to society of roads and driving.
     
  • This proposal is moderate in size.  It is about 40% the size of Amendment 7, for example.  This should help keep our transportation priorities and system more in balance, spending more in the direction of maintaining the current system, and create less opportunity for (for example) building unnecessary new major freeway projects.

HB 1460 ballot proposal details

Missouri's fuel tax was last increased in the 1990s and has not been adjusted for inflation since that time. Since the buying power of the fuel tax decreases every year with inflation, a number of stop-gap measures have been proposed and adopted over the years to deal with the funding shortfalls.

HB 1460 presents a ballot proposition to Missouri voters to address this situation. The main points of the proposition:

  • 10 cent fuel tax increase phased in with a 2.5 cent increase annual for four years starting in 2019
  • Funds go to the state road fund, as required by the Missouri Constitution
  • State portion of the new funding will go directly to fund the Highway Patrol
  • The local portion of the new funding goes directly to cities and counties for transportation purposes, according to rules currently in place in the state constitution and state statute
  • Indirectly funds MoDOT: The Highway Patrol is currently funded from the state road fund, so this new dedicated funding will allow current state road funding (existing state fuel tax, vehicle fees, vehicle-related sales tax) to go solely to MoDOT.
  • When fully phased in (about 10 years), the tax increases will generate about $288 million annually for the Highway Patrol and $123 million for city/county transportation. This is, approximately, the inflationary correction needed to bring the 17 cent fuel tax to the equivalent buying power today.  It will cost the average motorist about $5-$10/month.
  • This costs the average driver an estimated $5-$10 per month when fully phased in
  • A system is created to bring alternative fuel taxes/fees to equivalent levels to gas/diesel by 2026. This includes electric, natural gas, all others.
  • Also includes a proposal to exempt prize winnings of Olympic athletes from taxation.  This was the original bill; the fuel tax provisions were added to it. I assume that drafters assumed inclusion of the Olympic tax exemption along with the fuel tax would help sweeten the proposal a bit for voters.
  • Also creates (but does not fund) the Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund:
    • Money for the fund must be appropriated annually by the General Assembly    
    • Projects must meet 5 criteria: Road project larger than $50 million, on 2014 state freight plan, areas causing significant traffic delays, identified as reducing fatal crashes and in a designated MoDOT "safe travel zone", etc.
    • This was a late addition, presumably supported by the trucking industry.    
  • Should be on the ballot in November for a popular vote. However, the Governor has the option to move it to August, at his discretion.

The bill's page, with full information, bill text, and ballot language, is here.

Multimodal transportation funding in Missouri--bicycling, walking, trails, public transportation, passenger & freight rail, ports, airports--is still stalled on the launch pad

One disappointment this year--and of past decades of work of the Missouri legislature--is the failure to move fo

Rep. Kevin Corlew of Kansas City has championed transportation issues
Rep. Kevin Corlew of Kansas City has championed transportation issues in Jefferson City, including multimodal transportation funding
rward with a statewide multimodal transportation funding proposal.

Funding the state's multimodal transportation fund with $50-70 million in dedicated annual funding was one of the primary recommendations of the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force.

This funding would support all the important parts of Missouri's transportation system other than roads and highways--including ports, airports, freight rail, passenger rail, public transportation, bicycling, walking, and trails. 

Missouri is really falling behind other states across the U.S. and the midwest in failing to provide some dedicated, annual state funding for this important side of transportation. It is a very, very small amount of money that has a huge positive impact on the state. 

It is a clear and unambigous function of government to provide for these types of transportation. The cost is very, very low in comparison with our overall transportation budget.

But it has been very, very difficult for Missouri legislators to support for decades. 

This year the legislature made significant progress on several of the Task Force recommendations--including safety recommendations and the fuel tax increase.  But progress on the multimodal funding proposal has been far slower.

One bright spot this year: Rep. Kevin Corlew offered the multimodal transportation funding proposal as a floor amendment, where it failed on a voice vote. (A quick thank-you to Rep. Corlew for sponsoring that amendment would be a long way.)

We very much appreciate Rep. Corlew's leadership on this issue.  But we are very disappointed on the lack of support for multimodal transportation funding in the Missouri House and Senate.

Over the decades, we have seen MoDOT transportation funding crises come and go. Every time a fuel tax increase is proposed, there is the promise "next year we will work on funding for all the other transportion modes."

And every year, "next year" never comes.

We need to do better.

 

Building a world class bicycle and pedestrian transportation network across Missouri, improving road safety for all users, encouraging more people to walk and bicycle more often, and building a statewide movement in support of bicycling, walking, and trails are the four primary goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri.

Our legislative work with the Missouri General Assembly is one of the most important ways that we accomplish all four of those goals. The progress we make--and the disasters we avert--at the statewide level affect every community and neighborhood across Missouri.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help make our legislative work in Jefferson City and in Washington DC as effective as it can be--and help turn our Vision into reality!


 

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