THE VOTE: Amendment 3 and Missouri roads

The Kansas City Star has an article summarizing both sides of view on Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3, as does the Quincy Whig, while Missourians for Tax Justice give its reasons for opposing Amendment 3:
Why Amendment 3 won’t fix the condition of Missouri’s highways
Missouri’s Dept of Transportation (MoDoT) has continued to build more miles of state highways, instead of adequately refocusing MoDoT’s budget on our highway maintenance needs.

This is one reason Missouri now has the 7th biggest state hwy network among the 50 states, even though we’re only 17th in pop and only 21st in land area.

Amendment 3 would put ¾ of the redirected funds into new construction rather than maintenance, thus adding to the eventual maintenance burden.

Missouri doesn’t tax itself to support this oversized highway network.
We still have practically the lowest gas and diesel taxes compared to surrounding states and compared to the rest of the country.

We still don’t make big trucks pay more of their fair share for the damage they do to the pavement.

We still don’t give MoDoT aut hority to use tolls on highways.

Why highway industry claims about “diversion” are bogus
The TV ads say “stop diverting transportation funds to other agencies.” But the real diversion occurred in 1979 when half the sales tax on motor vehicles was first diverted from General Revenue to MoDoT’s budget. Now the highway industry wants to take the remaining half of the sales tax on motor vehicles out of General Revenue and put it into MoDoT’s budget, permanently.

We believe that sales taxes should go into General Revenue, and not necessarily be earmarked to serve the specific item we've purchased. When we buy books and magazines, the sales tax isn't earmarked for a library fund. When we buy computers, the sales tax isn't automatically used to computerize our state. Our elected representatives, not an inflexible constitution, should decide what the state’s most critical needs are from year to year.

Although it’s normal for any revenue dept to pay itself for the cost of collecting a given tax, A-3 would cap at "actual costs" or 3% (whichever is less) the portion of any transportation tax the Revenue Dept could keep to cover its costs of collecting those taxes.

The collection costs for license fees and sales taxes that the Revenue Dept won’t be reimbursed for will have to come out of General Revenue.

The highway industry keeps talking about diversion of gas taxes. But Amendment 3 would not reduce the amount of gas taxes that now go to other agencies. Besides MoDoT, the only depts that now receive a portion of gas taxes are the Highway Patrol, Administration Dept (to pay fringe benefits to highway employees), and Revenue Dept (to cover its costs of collecting the tax). Amendment 3 would not change Hwy Patrol or Administration Dept "diversions." And since the cost of collecting the gas tax is only about 2% of that tax, the Revenue Dept would continue to keep its full costs of collecting the gas tax, even i f Amendment 3 passes.

How Amendment 3 will affect our taxes, indirectly
In spite of highway industry claims that A-3 won't increase our taxes, it will force us to live with cuts in education, healthcare, foster care, senior care,… everything that depends on Gen’l Revenue. … or to require a tax increase at the state or local level to bring those programs back to their current levels.
The highway industry claims that a reviving economy will make up for the diversion by FY09 of $187 million per year of General Revenue to the highway budget. However, much of the increase in revenue due to a reviving economy may be needed to make up the deficit in the school equalization formula, which is currently under-funded by $600 million/year.

Why highway industry claims that A-3 will create jobs is bogus
Keeping this money in education and social services will save more jobs than would be created by moving the money to highway construction, because of differences in wages and in amounts of capital investment involved in each job setting.

Why highway construction won’t necessarily reduce highway deaths
Billboards and TV ads say “vote yes on A-3” to fix our roads and stop highway deaths. But 2 of the main contributors to highway deaths – drunk driving and high speeds – could be worsened, not improved, by Amendment 3.
Missouri belatedly enacted tighter drunk driving laws, but Amendment 3 threatens to reduce their enforcement by cutting the budget of the Revenue Dept, which enforces those laws.
As soon as the federal government de-regulated hwy speed limits, Mo reverted back to 70 mph on state highways outside cities and towns. And by providing new construction money to widen highways , Amendment 3 will encourage faster driving.

Why public transit and Amtrak are likely to be hurt by Amendment 3
Public transit and Amtrak can now be partly funded out of the $1.3 million set aside for "multi-modal transportation" from the first half of the sales tax on motor vehicles (the half that was diverted from Gen’l Revenue to MoDoT in 1979).

However, currently almost 100% of state funding for public transit comes from Gen’l Revenue, and 3/4 of state funding for Amtrak comes from Gen’l Revenue.

A-3 would give an extra $1.3 million to the multi-modal fund, some of which could be allocated to public transit and Amtrak, or could be allocated entirely to freight rail, water ports or airports.

It's more likely that transit and Amtrak would have to continue relying all or mostly on Gen’l Revenue, which would be a smaller pot of money if A-3 passes.

And A-3 would permanently bar any transportation tax other than 2% of t he 1st half of motor vehicle sales tax from ever being used to support any mode of transportation other than hwys.

24 organizations now officially oppose A-3, including Sierra Club Ozark Chapter, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, League of Women Voters of Missouri, Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), St. Louis, Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri National Education Association, Missouri Federation of Teachers and Related School Personnel, and Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

Since we can't match the highway industry's $600,000 campaign budget, we’re relying on people power, flyers, and a small amount of radio advertising. So please forward this to friends and family who are Missouri voters.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation does not official support or oppose Amendment 3 but believes that it is an important issue that should be studied carefully by Missouri voters. The Missouri Bicycle Federation's position on Amendment 3 can be found here.