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Missouri Lawmaker: Transportation Tax "Illogical"

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.-- Republic Sen. John Lamping of St. Louis said the state does not need a one-cent sales tax to support transportation, and that the funding could come from the state's General Revenue.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.--  An opponent of asking voters to support transportation with a one-cent sales tax for ten years says it’s “illogical” coming from lawmakers who also want to cut taxes.

Legislative budget estimates are that the proposed ten-year tax would generate about $720-million annually.  Senator John Lamping (R-St. Louis) noted in a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday that members of the Republican majority in both chambers are pursuing major tax cuts.

“The $600-million to $900-million that we have agreed to remove from General Revenue … that’s the funding source. That could serve as potential funding source for roads,” Lamping told the House sponsor of the proposal, Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair).

Lamping says that contradicts the argument that the state doesn’t have the money to fund roads.

Hinson argues that a legislature can’t be counted on to fund transportation out of General Revenue.

“Ask the school districts and the veterans how that’s working out for them, the promises that the General Assembly has made in the past,” Hinson told Lamping. “We’re not fully funding veterans programs, we’re not fully funding the school foundation formula.”

Lamping argued that his proposal to permanently redirect a half-percent of sales or use taxes to the state’s road fund is a way to ensure that transportation remains funded, even out of General Revenue.  Opponents of his proposal say funding transportation from General Revenue risks inserting politics into transportation decisions.

Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) said he supports the transportation tax because of the projected funding shortfall for MODOT, but he also questions asking for that tax increase while Republican lawmakers push for a tax cut.

“My concern … is the perception and the messaging that we’re sending to the people,” said Holsman. “From a social science standpoint is it wise to reduce your revenues and then ask your voters to increase the burden on them?” he asked Hinson.

“Some people would probably agree with you that it’s probably not the wisest thing to do,” Hinson answered.

Lamping also questioned whether $720-million would be enough to provide for maintaining Missouri’s current infrastructure and new projects.  He noted projections that the Transportation Department’s budget could be as low as $350-million by 2017, and that maintaining roads cost about $700-million.

“Are they going to not repair the roads while they’re building these projects?” asked Lamping.

Hinson said he doesn’t know if the projects that would be seen would be considered new, rather than repair and maintenance.  He points to projects such as those to widen shoulders and add rumble strips to lettered routes.

Hinson’s proposal cleared the House last week 96-53.
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