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Transportation task force wants Missouri lawmakers and voters to raise fuel tax

Median guard cable on Missouri's busiest interstate highways is virtually eliminating highway crossover deaths.
Median guard cable on Missouri's busiest interstate highways is virtually eliminating highway crossover deaths.

Raising Missouri’s fuel tax leads off a list of recommendations released Tuesday by a joint House-Senate task force.

The 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force is recommending a 10 cent hike in the gas tax to 27 cents a gallon. It also wants to raise the diesel fuel tax to 29 cents a gallon. Both the gas and diesel taxes have been set at 17 cents for roughly two decades.

State Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, said a fuel tax hike would provide an additional $430 million a year for roads and bridges. 

“The same purchasing power that 17 cents had in 1996 is now only 8 cents,” he said. “Just to keep up with inflation, we need an adjustment.”

The proposed fuel tax hike would have to be passed by both the legislature and Missouri voters. The House refused to take up a proposed fuel tax hike in 2015. And voters rejected a 0.75 percent sales tax hike for transportation in 2014.

Corlew suggests that voters are open to shelling out a bit more for gas if it means better roads and bridges.

“There’s a tremendous nexus between filling up your car and then getting on the road,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We’re confident that the people of Missouri, that spoke to us, would support that effort.”

The task force held several public meetings across the state during part of 2017.  It also recommends setting aside between $50 million and $70 million a year for mass transit, airports, river ports, and transporting the elderly and disabled.

Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Dan Mehan supports the task force’s recommendations.

“Now it’s time to begin the discussion that will put at least some of these ideas into action,” he said in a written statement. “Missouri can’t afford to see our natural advantage as a central state diminished by a poorly-funded transportation system. We need to invest for our future and we hope the Missouri General Assembly will take action.”

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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