Jefferson City — Missouri has long had one of the lowest average gasoline taxes in the nation, and it has been about 25 years since the state gasoline tax was increased.
In addition, Missouri has consistently ranked in the bottom half of states in terms of roads in poor condition and bridges that are deemed structurally insufficient. Estimates suggest that Missouri currently underfunds its transportation system by more than $825 million annually.
A recent White House assessment gave Missouri a “C-” for its infrastructure.
In light of this critical need, more than 250 Missouri businesses and individuals have signed on to a letter urging the legislature to act.
This could be the year to fix that as lawmakers consider a legislative funding package – Senate Bill 262 – that could provide nearly $500 million in increased investment to address the state’s infrastructure backlog.
A broad coalition of transportation stakeholders, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri AFL-CIO, released a study last week analyzing the economic impact of the proposed transportation investment bill. The study was completed by Economic Leadership, LLC. (You can find a link to the full study at mochamber.com/transportation/transportationstudy.)
The report addresses two main benefits that can be anticipated and measured from transportation improvements:
• The first benefit is the increase in economic activity in the construction sector spurred by the new gas tax revenue. These construction jobs are often stable, higher wage jobs. The spending of these higher wages can produce ripple effects throughout the economy.
• The second benefit measured in the report is cost savings to Missouri drivers from the improved quality of roads and bridges.
The annual benefit to drivers and infrastructure construction investment could generate over $1.8 billion in sales in Missouri’s economy, the study found, resulting an overall increase of $722 million in earnings across the state and more than 17,000 jobs every year.
“It’s frustrating to see Missouri roads crumble while we send our workers to other states to build other states’ transportation projects,” said Jake Hummel, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “Investment in our infrastructure will increase safety for all Missourians and create and sustain good jobs.
“We have the opportunity to make much needed improvements to our state’s roads while employing an additional 17,000 Missourians,” Hummel said.
MORE THAN $800 MILLION IN UNFUNDED REPAIRS
“The current state of our transportation system is unacceptable. More than $800 million in unfunded repairs, 45th in revenue per mile, over 2,00 deficient bridges – these numbers speak for themselves. But so do the numbers in this economic analysis,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber. “We can address serious safety and competitiveness issues while generating nearly $2 billion in additional economic activity in our state each year.”