Our Opinion: Let voters decide fuel tax

Missouri's 33,984 miles of roads and 10,394 bridges need maintenance, and right now, the state Department of Transportation doesn't have the money to do it.

The funding problem isn't new, but like all infrastructure needs, the longer it goes on, the more dire the problems will become.

We're never excited about potential tax increases, but in this case, something needs to be done so we stop kicking the infrastructure problem down the road. As we said before, Missouri's highways and bridges are deteriorating quicker than we can fix them, and lawmakers haven't been aggressive enough to fix the problem.

That's probably because Republicans, who control the Legislature, aren't big on tax increases and they know voters shot down the last one, a sales tax for transportation funding. So lawmakers last April shot down a proposal to let voters decide whether to increase the fuel tax by nearly 6 cents a gallon.

Now, as the News Tribune reported Wednesday, the Associated Press has reported a 23-member task force wants lawmakers to ask voters to approve a 10-cent increase per gallon in Missouri's fuels tax and a 12-cent increase per gallon of diesel fuel.

The recommendation is part of the 67-page report the task force submitted Monday to the General Assembly after holding 10 public meetings between June and December.

Because of the "Hancock Amendment," the proposal would have to go before voters for approval. The 1980 amendment to the Missouri Constitution restricts the state's revenue growth, unless voters approve exceptions.

State Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, noted the proposed funding increases are in the fees paid by users and would increase MoDOT's funding for roads and bridges maintenance and construction by about $430 million a year - restoring the state to the buying power level the 17-cents-per-gallon fuels tax first had when it went into effect in April 1996.

We encourage lawmakers to give voters the opportunity to decide whether to fund and improve transportation in the state.

News Tribune