Cole County Farm Bureau leaders want their members to approve a fuels tax increase Missouri residents will vote on in November’s general election.
The Cole County Farm Bureau held its annual meeting Thursday night inside the Missouri Farm Bureau office, setting its legislative agenda for the year.
Missouri Proposition D asks voters to amend state law to raise the state’s 17-cent motor fuels tax by 2.5 cents each year over a four-year period. If passed, law enforcement could receive at least $288 million in new revenue through the Missouri State Road fund, according to ballot language on the website of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s office. An additional $123 million could be generated each year to fund construction and maintenance projects for local governments, the ballot language states.
Harry Thompson, who represents the Cole County Farm Bureau on the Missouri Farm Bureau Board of Directors, told the meeting’s attendees that Proposition D would give Cole County an extra $624,000 for road projects.
“Cole County could conceivably build a couple extra bridges each year with that or pave quite a few miles of extra blacktop,” Thompson said. “We think it would be a great investment for Missouri, a great investment for Cole County to pass this tax.”
Thompson said before the meeting that Proposition D would especially help counties surrounding Cole County that are struggling to find funding for road improvements.
“There’s a lot of farm to market roads that need upgrading,” Thompson said, “a lot of farm to market roads that still need to have their shoulders widened to make them safer.”
Cole County Farm Bureau President Tim Kauffman said road repairs impact all rural residents.
Spencer Tuma, Missouri Farm Bureau director of national legislative affairs, also spoke at the meeting. Tuma said the Missouri Farm Bureau opposes Missouri Amendment 1 — also referred to as the Clean Missouri initiative — which, among other changes, proposes:
• Changing the process used to redraw state House and Senate district boundaries every 10 years, after the federal census is finished.
• Reducing the limits on campaign contributions that candidates for state Legislature can accept from individuals or groups.
• Limiting the gifts that state lawmakers and their employees can accept from paid lobbyists to items that cost $5 or less.
• Prohibiting lawmakers and their employees from serving as paid lobbyists for a two-year period after the lawmaker leaves office.
• Prohibiting political fundraising on state property by candidates for or members of the Legislature.
• Requiring legislative records and proceedings to be open to the public under the Sunshine Law.
Tuma said Amendment 1 would create confusing legislative districts that could span from parts of St. Louis to parts of Mid-Missouri.
“Imagine a spaghetti noodle stretching from St. Louis to places in Mid-Missouri like Randolph County or Boone County,” Tuma said. “That’s the way the legislative districts will potentially be drawn under Clean Missouri.”
Thompson said the Cole County Farm Bureau also opposes two amendments to the Missouri Constitution and one ballot initiative which could legalize marijuana for medical use.
“We feel that while medical marijuana probably does have its place, it still is a gateway,” Thompson said.
Additionally the Cole County Farm Bureau endorsed several legislative priorities it will bring to the Missouri Farm Bureau during its annual convention Dec. 2-4 at Tan-Tar-A Resort, including federal legislation that sets standard broadband internet speeds for federally funded broadband infrastructure projects.
The Cole County Farm Bureau also supports various state legislative priorities, including: creating further regulations on wind and solar energy, adopting a prescription drug monitoring program to better monitor users of opioid-based painkillers and encouraging local school districts to let trained employees carry firearms.
Membership of the county branch of the Farm Bureau grew for the 29th straight year to 3,715 members, which made the it the third largest chapter in Missouri, Kauffman said.