Missouri voters reject gas tax

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Confusing language, long ballot may have stalled the measure

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor

A GAS TAX to fund Missouri transportation projects was rejected by voters Nov. 6.

Missouri voters rejected a plan to bring in more money for transportation projects Nov. 6.

Proposition D would have gradually raised Missouri’s gas tax by 10 cents over a four-year period. Drivers currently pay 17 cents a gallon in state tax in Missouri, among the lowest in the nation. Proposition D would have raised the tax to 27 cents by 2022.

The measure was forecast to raise about $400 million a year to help fund state and local roads and bridge projects and provide a dedicated source of funding to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, freeing up money the state currently budgets for the Patrol for transportation projects.

The measure had bipartisan support and the support of Labor.

Gov. Mike Parson rallied for passage of Proposition D with local Labor leaders and union members. Other Republican and Democratic officials also backed the proposal.

But some conservative activists criticized the measure as an unnecessary tax increase, and some elected officials expressed wariness that the measure sent money to the Highway Patrol.

Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, said he thinks confusing language and a long ballot were partially to blame for Prop D’s defeat.

“When you overload the folks, especially in a midterm election, I just think that if people really don’t read into it, they’re not going to get how important it is or where this is coming from,” White said. “From what I saw on social media and some of the outlets, folks just didn’t really seem to know what was behind it.”

There is enough construction work in St. Louis to keep workers busy right now that jobs aren’t as big a concern as they had been, White said, but safety remains a major concern.

Interstate 70 in particular is badly in need of repair and expansion.

Almost 900 of the state’s roughly 10,400 bridges are rated in poor condition. Some have nets under them to catch falling debris. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the state an overall infrastructure grade of C minus.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said it will be difficult to prioritize projects without the extra funding.

“We are disappointed that Proposition D failed, but the people of Missouri have spoken, and we respect that,” McKenna said in a statement. “Our top priorities are safety and taking care of what we have, and that is where we will continue to focus our attention. We will continue to do the best we can with what we have for as long as we can. Setting priorities among the many equally important transportation projects will be a tough job with limited resources, but we’ll continue to work closely with planning partners, local communities and customers to address Missouri’s most pressing needs.”

Parson said in a statement that he planned to “continue to work with members of the Highway Commission, the General Assembly, and industry stakeholders to explore ways to meet our state’s infrastructure needs moving forward.

“Missouri’s future economic success is directly related to our ability to anticipate and meet the growing infrastructure demands of our state,” he said.

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