In 2017, the General Assembly adopted HCR 47, which established the 21st Century Missouri Transportation System Task Force – a 23-member, bipartisan panel comprised of participants from the House of Representatives, Senate and Executive Branch, as well as the private sector. The Task Force was directed to evaluate Missouri’s transportation system and make funding recommendations.
Between June and December of last year, the task force met throughout the state on 10 separate occasions. These meetings provided the opportunity for the public to weigh-in and resulted in more than 100 individuals testifying on a variety of transportation issues.
The Task Force released its recommendation report on January 2, 2018, calling for an increase in state gas tax revenues to deliver economic growth, and the creation of a dedicated revenue stream of $50 to $70 million for transit and other multi-modal transportation. More specifically, the Task Force is recommending a 10 cent hike in the gas tax and 12 cent hike in the diesel fuel tax. This would bring gas and diesel fuel to 27 cents and 29 cents per gallon, respectively, when both have been set at 17 cents per gallon for nearly two decades. According to State Rep. Kevin Corlew, a fuel tax hike would provide an additional $430 million a year for roads and bridges. The proposed fuel tax hike would have to be passed by both the legislature and Missouri voters.
With regards to the $50 to $70 million for the dedicated stream of funding for transit and other multi-model transportation, the report notes that it is not suggesting any additional taxation of Missouri citizens. Rather, it proposes a revision of Missouri’s “Timely Filing Discount” that currently allows retailers to retain two percent of the sales and use taxes they collect from customers if they remit those taxes to the state in a timely manner. This vendor discount is uncapped, remains the second-most generous in the country and cost Missourians about $115 million in 2016. A discount at a lesser percent, or implementation of a cap, would provide revenue savings, which could then be directed to multi-modal transportation. The Task Force also recommends that any potential savings be statutorily designated to go into the non-highway transportation fund.
According to the American Public Transit Association, every $1 dollar invested in public transportation systems yields a $4 return. Given the fact that transit funding in Missouri has been slashed to $1.7 million for FY2018, Citizens for Modern Transit, the transit advocacy organization in St. Louis, is encouraged by the recommendation. The organization understands that while the plan may come with challenges, it is on the right track as it relates to transit funding.
“While any transportation plan will face significant challenges in this legislative session, I am pleased to see that the Task Force took into account the need to recommend specific investment in transit and multi-modal transportation. MPTA members stressed the importance of this investment in their testimonies at many of the public meetings that were held in 2017. This is most definitely a good first step for transit,” said Dorothy Yeager, President of MPTA.