Truckers, Other Groups Back Gas-Tax Hike in Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A lengthy list of heavyweight lobbying groups urged members of the Missouri House April 26 to put a question on the November ballot asking if voters support a hike in the state gasoline tax.

With less than three weeks left in the legislative session, a House panel heard testimony on a plan to ask voters to raise the tax on motor fuel by 5.9 cents per gallon.

Lawmakers, who are concerned about supporting a tax hike proposal in an election year, told statewide organizations to make sure they supplied positive talking points for members if they support the idea.

“If we have the facts… I think we’re going to be able to take the naysayers and turn them into ‘yes,’ ” said Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, who chairs the House Transportation Committee.

“It’s going to be an extremely hard sell,” added Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville.

The fuel tax increase referendum won approval in the Senate on April 7. The plan, if put on the ballot and approved by voters, would generate an estimated $165 million in new revenue for state highways and bridges.

If adopted, the plan would bring Missouri’s state motor fuel tax to 22.9 cents per gallon, higher than the 20.88-cent national average, according to the American Petroleum Institute. That doesn’t count other taxes, including federal levies.

The sponsor, Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, said much of the tax also is paid by out-of-state travelers.

“We are the crossroads of America,” Libla said. “This is, by far, the fairest funding means possible. Drive more, pay more. Drive less, pay less.”

Groups with a stake in state roads voiced their support.

Mark Engeman of Tri-County Trucking in Hermann said safety is among the concerns of his fellow dump truck drivers.

“We would be more than happy to pay the extra to have better roads,” Engeman said.

Gas station owners, convenience store operators, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and firefighters expressed support.

Tom Crawford of the Missouri Trucking Association said truck drivers are in favor of the increase.

“They see the congestion and the needs and the crumbling infrastructure,” Crawford said.

Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the agency would use the money to begin fixing aging bridges and crumbling roads. He said bad roads result in congestion.

“That’s wasted time and productivity for the citizens of the state of Missouri,” McKenna said.

The measure could come up for a vote as early as next week.