Today Missouri voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase the state’s sales tax by three-fourths-cents to fund transportation projects throughout the state. If approved, the measure would raise $5.4 billion over the next ten years.
THE BALLOT MEASURE
The ballot measure, if approved, would raise the state sales tax from 4.25 cents to 5 cents for a period of ten years. The additional revenue would fund approximately $480 million in state transportation improvements and $54 million in local transportation projects each year. The money would be used only for transportation purposes, and the state would not be able to raise the state gas tax during the ten year period.
If passed, this would mark the first time that the state’s roads and bridges have been funded with something other than a user fee such as motor fuel tax, registration fees or a tax on vehicle sales. Without this sales tax, officials at the Missouri Department of Transportation expect that the budget will drop to $325 million by 2017, well below what is needed to maintain and improve state roads and bridges.
In June Governor Jay Nixon (D) came out in opposition to the measure, claiming that an increase in the state’s sales taxes to expand the transportation budget is an unfeasible burden on Missouri citizens. While the proposal was originally scheduled for the November 2014 statewide election, Governor Nixon moved the transportation measure up to the August 5 ballot. In a written statement Nixon said, “This tax hike is neither a fair nor fiscally responsible solution to our transportation infrastructure needs, and it does not have my support.”
Additionally, a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Association for Social Welfare June 12 requested that the constitutional amendment be rewritten, due to their belief that the language is misleading to voters. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander approved the ballot question June 16, and the lawsuit was dismissed July 1.
Opposition to the ballot measure has been led by “Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions”, an organization that introduced the “Vote No on Amendment 7” campaign to discourage voters from approving the transportation sales tax increase. The group states that a sales tax increase unfairly taxes Missouri residents, while out-of-state drivers are not held responsible for road maintenance and repairs.
Proponents of the ballot measure launched the “Yes on Amendment 7” campaign on June 24. Lead by “Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs”— and with the support of dozens of organizations throughout Missouri, including the state Chamber of Commerce, unions, and transportation construction companies— the group has raised more than $4.1 million to advocate for the state transportation sales tax increase. With this funding, they have been reaching out to Missouri voters through ads to educate them on the importance of passing the measure. To view television ads created for “Yes on Amendment 7”, click here.
In addition to the campaign being run by “Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs”, the Missouri Department of Transportation has released an updated list of projects that would be possible if the transportation sales tax increase is approved by voters. The list of 800 projects is estimated to cost a total of $4.8 billion, with additional funds from the transportation sales tax increase to be used for local projects.
Missouri polls will be open until 7pm on August 5.
 “Amendment 7 backers tout safety, new jobs; foes say special interests to benefit”, by Eli Yokley of the Joplin Globe: August 1, 2014. http://www.joplinglobe.com/topstories/x657238005/Amendment-7-backers-tout-safety-new-jobs-foes-say-special-interests-to-benefit