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Proposed fuel tax hike set for debate in Missouri Senate

Missouri Department of Transportation St. Charles County camera

Transportation issues, including the possibility of raising the state's fuel tax, are expected to get a lot of attention this week from the Missouri Senate.

Senate Bill 623 would raise the tax on gasoline by 1.5 cents a gallon, and the tax on diesel fuel by 3.5 cents a gallon. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, says he'll allow the bill's sponsor as much time has he wants to make his case.

"That's why we're the Senate," Kehoe said. "We take our time and allow members to debate these issues, and I think that's what's the important part of what that body does."

Kehoe is also a former transportation commissioner and former owner of a Jefferson City car dealership.

"Certainly the federal highway bill has helped us a lot, but it doesn't solve all of our problems, (including) the amount of miles and the number of bridges that we have in our transportation system," Kehoe said, "and then our other modes -- airport, rails, and river port access -- those all still need help."

The proposed fuel tax hike is sponsored by fellow Republican Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff.

"The last adjustment the legislature (made to the fuel tax) was in 1992. It gradually phased into the current level of 17(.3) cents per gallon in 1996," Libla told the Senate's transportation committee in January.

If the tax proposal passes out of the Senate, it may have trouble in the Missouri House. Republicans leaders there oppose raising the state’s fuel tax. They would revive the state-local cost share program and also redirect some funds from Medicaid and other social programs into roads and bridges.

"We're going to have to find a way to solve our interstate (highway) problems at some point, and that probably starts with I-70," House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, told reporters Thursday. "We've got a group of legislators that are continuing to work on that problem."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.