Senate supports transportation sales tax

On a 22-10 vote, the Missouri Senate passed a proposed three-quarter cent sales tax increase Tuesday to pay for various transportation improvements.

The proposed constitutional amendment already had been passed by the House, so it must go back because of the changes senators made.

After more than a year’s discussion of asking voters to raise the state’s sales tax by a penny for a 10-year period, the biggest change was reducing its hike to three-quarters of a cent.

That will generate about $6 billion over a decade, down from the $7.8 billion predicted in the higher proposal.

“The change was more about senators who felt more comfortable with a little lesser amount,” Senate sponsor Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told reporters after the vote.

He said the change encouraged some of the idea’s opponents to skip a filibuster, which killed the proposal on the last day of last year’s session.

“And we had some mayors around the state — and counties — who are considering potential local sales tax initiatives,” Kehoe added, “and they like a little bit less state tax, to give them a little bit more room in their communities for specific projects they’re considering.

“So, we thought it was a win-win.”

Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, who voted against the bill Tuesday, helped lead last year’s filibuster. He said he didn’t like this year’s bill much better.

He told colleagues they should be debating his idea to dedicate existing sales taxes for transportation rather than asking voters to increase their sales taxes.

“Missourians today already think their taxes go to roads,” Lamping told the News Tribune after the vote.

But his idea to set aside a percentage of the state’s existing sales tax revenues for transportation “just didn’t fit in the universe of things,” he said. “We wanted to cut income taxes and we wanted to fund roads — and we wanted to cut taxes and fund roads separately.”

Ultimately, Missouri voters must approve the proposal, and could extend its sunset with a future statewide vote.

Before voters go to the pills, the state transportation department must develop a list of the specific projects to be paid for with the increased funding.

“We continue to be excited that the General Assembly is continuing a dialog on transportation funding for the future,” MoDOT Director Dave Nichols said after Tuesday’s vote. “MoDOT is working with our transportation planning partners, right now, to perfect a list of projects.

“It will be a mix of all types of projects — everything from new transportation projects to rehabilitation, to other modes of transportation.”

If voters approve the proposed amendment, cities and counties each will get 5 percent of the revenue the tax will generate to spend on local projects.

Earlier coverage:

The Missouri Senate this afternoon passed a proposed three-quarter cent sales tax increase for transportation improvements.

The vote was 22-10 on the House-passed bill, sponsored in the Senate by Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

The Senate approved reducing the House-passed proposal for a one-cent sales tax, so the measure must go back to the House.

At the reduced rate, the tax would be expected to raise about $6 billion over 10 years, with 5 percent to go to Missouri counties and another 5 percent to the cities.

Ultimately, Missouri voters must approve the proposal — and could extend its sunset with a future statewide vote.

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