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Fuel tax hike being considered by Missouri Senate committee

Shell gas station
(via Flickr/dno1967b)
Shell Oil Co. has announced it's shuttering two St. Louis-area facilities. Pictured is a Shell gas station in Florida.

Legislation being considered by the Missouri Senate would raise the state's fuel tax to provide more money for roads and bridges.

If passed, Senate Bill 623 would raise the state's tax on gasoline by 1.5 cents a gallon, to 18.8 cents a gallon. It would also raise the state tax on diesel fuel by 3.5 cents a gallon, to 20.8 cents a gallon.

At 17.3 cents a gallon for both gasoline and diesel, Missouri now has the fifth lowest state fuel taxes in the nation. Only Alaska, New Jersey, South Carolina and Oklahoma are lower.

The sponsor, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, says Missouri politicians can no longer put their heads in the sand and expect the transportation funding problem to solve itself.

"We have the responsibility to take care of the assets that the taxpayers have worked so hard (for), and have paid through their hard sweat and work every time they buy a gallon of gas," Libla said. "They expect to have a road that's safe and not be destroying their cars or having a family member injured or killed."

Several business and industry officials testified in favor of the bill, including Edward DeSoignie of the Heavy Constructors Association of Kansas City.

"The legislation would provide a boost to construction company members of (our group), and employ thousands of laborers, equipment operators, truck drivers, masons and other crafts on public works projects," DeSoignie said. "Our companies have just started coming out of a construction recession that began in 2008, (and) passage of (this bill) would provide jobs to those workers our members employ."

MoDOT's revenue stream has been shrinking for years, and DeSoignie and other supporters say the additional revenue from the proposed tax hike is sorely needed.

Jeremy Cady with the Missouri Alliance for Freedom was the lone opposition witness to speak against the bill during Wednesday's public hearing.

He said the bill was "only a Band-Aid. With fuel efficiency increasing in our vehicles, with some vehicles turning entirely to electricity, revenue from a gas tax is going to continue to shrink."

Thus, Cady said, if the fuel tax hike becomes law, legislators could keep asking for them again every year, especially if the increases are small enough to avoid the constitutional requirement to obtain voter approval for certain size tax hikes.

The Senate committee on transportation, infrastructure and public safety is expected to vote on the bill at a later date.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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