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March 31, 2016 11:00 AM, EDT

Missouri Senate Gives Initial Nod to Fuel-Tax Increase

Ty Wright/Bloomberg News

Missouri’s Senate gave preliminary approval on March 30 to a fuel-tax hike of 5.9 cents per gallon on both diesel and gasoline.

The bill that passed by voice vote in the first round still must have a final reading in the Senate before moving on to the House, where Transportation Committee Chairman Glen Kolkmeyer is its leading proponent. Speaker Todd Richardson has said he opposes the fuel-tax increase, but Gov. Jay Nixon has said that he supports it.

“Let’s see if Missourians would really like to start working on our roads and bridges,” Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Doug Libla, chief sponsor of SB 623, said during the March 30 debate

If both chambers approve the bill, the proposal will go on November’s ballot, since any measure that increases taxes in Missouri by at least $90 million has to go to the voters. The current 17 cents per gallon tax on diesel and gas hasn’t been raised since 1996. If approved, the 22.9 cents per gallon tax would be 2 cents higher than the national average for gas and 2.7 cents higher than the national average for diesel, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

The Missouri Trucking Association supports the fuel-tax increase, which Libla said would produce $165 million annually for the state’s roads and bridges, just shy of the funding shortfall that Missouri Department of Transportation Bob Brendel cited to Transport Topics.

“We are pleased to see some progress on the effort to address highway infrastructure funding in Missouri and will continue to work on a viable solution to our problem,” Missouri Trucking Association CEO Tom Crawford said. “We know a formula with the sixth most [miles driven] and the 44th worst funding is not a workable solution. We continue to support efforts to increase fuel taxes as the most equitable, efficient and economical for long term sustainability of our infrastructure and our economy.”