With the federal government spending money like a proverbial drunken sailor, some states are holding off on funding transportation.
Why should states foot the bill when the feds might?
A federal coronavirus relief package gives $350 billion to state and local governments. Some already plan to spend some of their share on transportation projects, the Associated Press reported. Plus, President Joe Biden has proposed at least $135 billion for roads and bridges as part of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, the AP reported. And Congress is looking to fund a renewal of the nation's main highways.
The AP says states have proposed about half the amount of transportation funding measures this year compared to the last post-election year of 2019.
Missouri, where the state's 17-cent-a-gallon gas tax rate hasn't changed since 1996, is one of the states that still is proposing funding for transportation. A proposal would phase in a 12.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike, the AP reported.
The bill's sponsor, Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, who is sponsoring the bill, doesn't want to wait for the feds to step in. There are no federal proposals, he said, that will address the shortfalls our state has seen.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce is pushing for the measure through a "Missouri Can't Wait" campaign from a coalition of stakeholders who are rallying for transportation funding earmarked in Senate Bill 262.
It cites a study released last month showing that passing the bill could create a $1.8 billion positive impact on Missouri's economy. This would also create an overall increase of $722 million in earnings across the state and more than 17,000 jobs.
We agree with the coalition. Our state shouldn't — and, frankly, can't — wait for the federal government to step in. Road and bridge maintenance are among the most basic of governmental services. And our road/bridge system is long overdue for repairs.