MoDOT urges lawmakers to let voters decide on one cent tax increase
Would you vote for more taxes if you lived in Missouri? That's the issue one State Agency wants Missourians to decide. So far, they haven't had the chance after lawmakers blocked a one cent sales tax increase for transportation last year. Now, MoDOT and lawmakers are trying again with hopes it will get to the voters, and they will decide if they want to pay more for major transportation projects.
One of the major highways in Northeast Missouri is highway 61. It goes through big towns like Hannibal and smaller ones like Palmyra. Just a couple years ago, MoDOT blocked off intersections and lowered the speed to make this stretch of highway safer through Palmyra, but Mayor Loren Graham said it was only a temporary fix. Now the city and MoDOT is looking at long range plans such as adding another overpass.
"Eventually, I look for Highway 61 and the Avenue of the Saints to be more of an expressway that you will be able to get on and off at interchanges and overpasses and things like that," Graham said.
MoDOT is also looking at other, more expensive long range projects, such as rebuilding the Champ Clark Bridge and redirecting highway 61 traffic away from Hannibal schools and homes. Assistant District Engineer Kevin James says those can't happen unless they get more money.
"It's a revenue stream that for many many years was dependable and had a growth increase every year. In 2008, when gasoline got up to $4 a gallon, we started for the first time see that revenue stream have a negative trend. If anything, it's become more of a trend that's lowering instead of increasing," James said.
This sales tax would give MoDOT $7 billion worth of funds over the next 10 years. Missouri State Representative Craig Redmon said the MoDOT can't afford to bandage its problems forever.
"When you get into maintenance mode, all you're doing is fixing potholes and doing a little resurfacing but you're not doing any expansion of the shoulder area. It's starting to put the state at a disadvantage and starting to affect safety," Redmon said.
Graham agreed and said moving forward is the only way the state will grow.
"If they're not able to improve our infrastructure and they're just trying to maintain, there's a lot of projects out there the state has that needs to be addressed," Graham said.
If Missouri lawmakers pass the sales tax legislation, voters will get the final say on the November ballot.