Historic Missouri Transportation Funding bill, first ever to incorporate biking & walking, passes Missouri House 100-57

Today bicycling, walking, and transit took another step towards being officially recognized in the Missouri Constitution and funded by Missouri transportation dollars. The Missouri House passed SJR 16 by a vote of 100-57.

This was the final major hurdle the bill faced.  The Senate must still ratify a few technical changes made in the House resolution, which (we are hearing) could happen as soon as later today. 

If passed by the Senate, the Missouri Transportation Funding proposal will come before Missouri voters in August or November 2014.  

UPDATE 14 May: A few senators are now filibustering SJR 16. SJR 16 was debated for several hours in the Senate on Tuesday evening, and then laid aside. The sponsor is planning to work with the filibustering Senators and he is still hopeful SJR 16 will come to a vote and be passed before the end of the legislative session Friday.

If the filibuster is successful and the resolution does not pass, a private group is likely to pick up the proposal, starting with the language the General Assembly has developed, and bring it forward as a referendum that will appear on the ballot within the next couple of years.

UPDATE 15 Sept: The Senatorial filibuster succeeded in stopping SJR during the legislative session. However, now an initiative petition with essentially the same text has been introduced.  It will come before voters in November 2014. MoBikeFed is active in working with initiative petition promoters and MoDOT to ensure that bicycling and walking is integrated into this new funding in every possible way.

The proposed fundamental change in transportation funding, as expressed in the proposed amendment to Missouri's constitution, is having a very significant effect on MoDOT and on transportation planners all across Missouri.

What does SJR 16 do for bicycling and walking in Missouri?

SJR 16 reads in part:

The term  "transportation  system  purposes and uses" shall include authority for the commission, any county or city to plan, locate, relocate, establish, acquire, construct, maintain, control, operate, develop, and fund public transportation  facilities such  as, but not limited to, aviation, mass transportation, transportation of elderly and handicapped, railroads, ports, waterborne commerce, intermodal connections, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements.

If approved by Missouri voters, in either August or November 2014, the measure will, for the first time, completely integrate bicycling, walking, and transit funding into the Missouri state transportation system.

Previously, transit and passenger rail has received a small amount of general tax funding, an amount that is debated and hard-fought every year in the Missouri General Assembly.

Bicycle and pedestrian facilities, by law, receive no funding whatsoever from the Missouri state road fund.

So SJR 16, if approved by voters, will represent a fundamental change in how MoDOT does business, how Missouri transportation projects are designed, and in funding for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects and operations. 

The proposal allows, but does not require, MoDOT to spend dollars on transit, biking, and walking.  So it remains to be seen how thoroughgoing the change within MoDOT will be.  We could see a very minor change within MoDOT, with a very few dollars spent on these transportation options, or we could see a major (and much needed) realignment, where transportation decisions are made with regard to the needs of the community, livability, health, environment, and economic concerns--and where transit, biking, and walking receive a far higher proportion of funding than they do today.

What can you do now?

That is why we are urging people to:

THANK YOU! 

The fact that bicycling and walking is incorporated directly into the language of this $8 billion transportation funding proposal is a HUGE step forward for Missouri. If the proposal is approved by voters in 2014, MoDOT will finally move from being a highway department to a true transportation department.

How did this happen?  Well, it took many years of work, many meetings attended, many emails and phone calls made, many presentations given, many meetings with local and statewide leaders, many National Bike Summits, many bills and proposals discussed in the General Assembly, many Capitol Days, and many Legislator's Rides.

In short, it took many individuals and organizations working together, across the state of Missouri, in support of our common good.

That paid off in a huge way today, as equal inclusion of bicycling and walking into Missouri's transportation system was officially endorsed by the Missouri General Assembly.

So PLEASE spend some time today patting yourself on the back--your ongoing support, your emails, visits, and phone calls, are having a HUGE effect on the direction of bicycling and walking in Missouri.

You're making a difference!

Summary/Liveblog of the SJR 16 Debate & Vote Today

Below is a summary of debate and votes on SJR 16 in the Missouri House on May 14th, 2013.  Debate was heard via the audio feed on the Missouri House Web Site. Speakers are recognized only by county in the audio feed, making it impossible to definitely positively identify most participants in the debate.  Below "S" indicates the main speaker and  "R" indicates a reply by Rep. Hinson, the resolution's handler.

The debate goes by far too fast for literal transcription of the debate (by me, anyway!), so the below represents a summary of the main points, but is by no means direct or exact quotes.

The issues brought up and the discussed give a good idea of some of the issues and concerns circulating among House members.  Note that the issues of transit, biking, and walking were among the most common mentioned.

Rep. Hinson, bill handler and sponsor of a similar provision in the House:

Intro, Missouri's many transportation needs, including 26,000 miles of roads with no shoulder, many other deficiencies. 

Rep. Dave Hinson
Rep. Dave Hinson


Amendment 1

Passed by voice vote.  This is just very small technical amendment with spelling corrections, grammar, capitalization, etc.

Amendment 2

Passed by a voice vote. It has some non-controversial additional accountability measures that are supported by SJR 16 sponsors and House Leadership.

Debate on SJR 16, speaker 1:

S: I support Amtrak, multi-modal, etc., and like that portion of SJR 16. But I don't support the use of sales tax because it means seniors will be paying more than their share of transportation costs.

S: Large trucking companies aren't paying their share, whereas seniors & low income people are paying more than their share

R: Food & prescription drugs are excluded from the sales tax.


R: People, including elderly, complain about high fuel taxes as well

R: This funding will go to fund comprehensive transportation, including transit, OATS, etc.

R: Elderly and poor will see the greatest benefit as well.

Debate, Speaker #2:

S: Truck maintenance increases dramatically when roads & bridges deteriorate, and then the higher cost is passed on to the consumer

S: Thinks carve-outs for food & medicine make this funding option the best one he's seen so far

Debate, Speaker #3:

S: A very large tax increase, about $700 million per year net increase according to fiscal notes

S & others: Long discussion about tax credits

S: General Assembly recently passed large bonding issue, this will be going to voters, represents a large amoung of government spending.

S: The issue of tax increases:  This House was voted in by citizens, with the largest majority ever seen, by Tea Party Supporters, who are asking for tax cuts not tax increases.  He asks all Reps who were voted in/supported by Tea Party supporters to oppose the bill as a huge tax increase. He will be opposing because it is a tax increase.

Debate, Speaker #4:

S: We are not voting for a tax increase.  We are voting to bring the proposal before the people and let them decide.

S: Missouri has the 7th largest transportation system, it currently has many deficiencies

S: Every dollar invested on transportation generates $4 in economic impact; every $billion spent on transportation generates about 27,000 jobs

S: 4 yrs of hard work by stakeholders and advocates, nearly unanimous support across rural & urban areas to get the proposal to this point

S: I will be supporting the proposal.


Debate, Speaker #5:

S: I support this proposal. 


S: Mentions the amendment that would require a 'carve out' of 15% (minimum) of the new funding to be spent on alternatives, including transit, bike, ped, etc. He says he won't be in the House in the future to help decide the priorities of how this transportation fundign will be spent.  But he encourages everyone who will be making those decisions in the future, to think about these other transportation options and fund them appropriately.

Debate, Speaker #6:

S: Toll roads - no toll roads will be allowed to be built with state funds in MO as long as this bill was in force.

R: Yes, no toll roads allowed, unless built by purely private funds, as long as this proposal is in force.

S: There is strong opposition to tolling in House, I opposes toll roads strongly.  Restriction on toll roads is a major positive of SJR 16.

S: It does allow funding for bicycle paths, I support that.

S: It freezes the gas tax for the duration of the proposal (10 yrs), another point in favor of this proposal.

Debate, Speaker #7:

S: Transportation system is a fundamental responsibility of government

S: I support the proposal.

Vote on Previous Question

Previous Question closes the debate and moves to a final vote on the resolution.  It carries, 108-49.

Closing Argument

Rep. Hinson: The MO transportation funding sources are continually decreasing because the funding is tied to gallons of gas sold, not to inflation or the price of fuel.  

This is the best proposal we currently have to provide for rural roads, provide mass transit, provide for urban areas, get Missouri moving in the right direction.

Missouri has twice as many roads as IL and KS put together, but less funding than either of them.

Final Vote

100-57, motion passes

What about the amendment to require a 15% setaside for transit, biking, & walking?

Rep. Rick Stream of Kirkwood had prepared an amendment to SJR 16 to require at least 15% of the new funds to be spent on 'transportation purposes' as defined above--including ports, airports, transit, bicycling, and walking.

A similar amendment was put forward when SJR was under debate in the Senate.  That Senate amendment lost by voice vote.  In the House, leadership finally decided to allow no substantial amendments--neither the setaside amendment nor a much more drastic amendment that had some support in the House.

The setaside amendment had little or no chance of passing in the House--not because House leadership opposes bike, ped, and transit funding but because there is an overwhelming feeling in both chambers of the General Assembly that the General Assembly should not dictate any programs or specific spending within the transportation funding proposals.  Those decisions should be left to local discretion, is the current thinking in the General Assembly.

When the General Assembly tried to specify projects and priorities in the past, like with Proposition B in 2002 and the fuel tax increases approved in 1992, the results have been disastrous. 

So the 15% setaside amendment had little chance of passing.  However, bills and amendments often serve their purpose even if they never to pass. Your calls and email messages in support of the 15% setaside amendment still helped our cause tremendously--by raising the issue of bike, ped, and transit funding in the debate (notice that it was among the most-mentioned topics in the debate) and by putting MoDOT and its planning partners on notice that sufficient attention and funding must be given to these areas.

What's next?

The House made a few amendments to SJR 16 as it passed through Committee and the full House.  So SJR 16 will go to Conference Committee and then the full Senate for a final vote. 

However, all of the amendments are relatively small and technical in nature, and all have the full support of the resolution's sponsors and House & Senate leadership.  SJR 16 passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin the first time around, so accepting the Houses's slightly updated version is now just a matter of formality.

We should see SJR 16 officially and finally adopted by Friday--the last day of the legislative session--and we can expect to vote on the proposal in August or November 2014.  The exact date of the popular vote will be up to the governor.

More information about the $8 billion Missouri Transportation Funding Initiative

Remember that through Friday, May 19th, your membership or donation counts as a Legislative Session/Capitol Day Sponsorship for 2013.  Your membership and support of our legislative work for bicycling and walking in Missouri is what makes major advances like this possible.

 

Image credits:

1. Missouri delegation at the National Bike Summit, MoBikeFed.

2. Waiting for MoDOT by Zaskem, FlickR. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

3. MoDOT Director Dave Nichols at Bicycle & Pedestrian Day at the Capitol

4. Rep. Dave Hinson, House Handler of SJR 16

5. Bicyclists on Hwy 13, MoBikeFed

6. Urban Complete Streets, National Complete Streets Coalition

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