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Senate-approved fuel tax increase gets hearing before Missouri House committee

Republican Sen. Doug Libla, of Poplar Bluff, says he hasn't heard much about progress on the proposed steel and aluminum smelting plants in southeast Missouri.
File photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A proposal to raise Missouri's fuel tax is getting attention again at the state Capitol.

Senate Bill 623, which would raise the tax by 6 cents a gallon, was considered Tuesday by a State House committee. It was passed earlier this month by the Senate.

The sponsor, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, said the proposed increase would provide badly needed funding for Missouri's roads and bridges.

"We have things that's coming loose from bridges like concrete, plaster, and just different things … what's it going to take?" Libla said. "Is it actually going to take something falling off a bridge and going through a window and killing a family or something. … I mean, what is it going to take?"

The bill would require voter approval before the tax could take effect.

Several groups testified in favor of the bill, including the Missouri Trucking Association, AAA of Missouri, Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, and MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna.

"The revenue generated, if passed by the voters, (would be a) critical and positive step toward enabling MoDOT to maintain and preserve the existing (highway) system," McKenna said."We believe that the core of $165-170 million provided to MoDOT by this bill would go a long way in enabling us to stem the slide of the current condition of the system (and) maintain and preserve what we have."

Opponents testified that this proposal wouldn't bring in nearly enough revenue. Jeremy Cady of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom also disagreed on how much extra annual revenue would be generated.

"I think, roughly, the state would bring in just under $90 million with this," Cady said. "We heard that many bridges were between $50 (million) and $250 million dollars, as far as their price tags go. … This is not going to fix that."

The House transportation committee took no action on the bill Tuesday. Even if the committee passes it, there is no guarantee the full House would consider it before the 2016 regular session ends next month.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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