Misouri voters will head to the polls tomorrow to make a decision on Amendment 7 which reads: “Should the Missouri Constitution be changed to enact a temporary sales tax of three- quarters of one percent to be used solely to fund state and local highways, roads, bridges, and transportation projects for ten years, with priority given to repairing unsafe roads and bridges?”
Click to hear KMZU’s Kristie Cross speak with opponent of the amendment, Tom Shrout, treasurer for Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions and State Representative Dave Hinson who supports Amendment 7:
Those against the measure have suggested an increase to the fuel tax as one of several possible alternatives to amendment 7. State Representative Dave Hinson explains why he doesn’t see this as a realist solution. “To generate the same amount of money, we would have to impose 18 cents per gallon,” said Hinson, “We would also have to set an inflation adjuster on that because, with the increase in fuel mileage that cars are getting now, we would be back in the same situation in a few short years where we wouldn’t have the funding to go forward. The other thing that’s thrown in there is the emergence of the hybrid and electric cars. They’re getting more of the market share and are 100% electric.”
Tom Shrout, treasurer for Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, is an opponent of Amendment 7. Shrout responds when asked if he agrees that Missouri roadways do need help. “The U.S Chamber of Commerce said that Missouri’s roads are the 6th best in the country, “said Shrout, “I’m retired now, but I worked my entire life trying to get better investment in public transportation here in St. Louis, so I’m kinda a pro-tax guy. I think there are things that need to be done to Missouri roads, but I’m not sure it’s a $6 billion program over the next 10 years that needs to be done because people’s lifestyles are changing and the type of transportation they like to use or need to use is changing. I would much rather see a more forward-looking program than what has been proposed.”
Shrout said he believes a better solution is a focus on alternative transportation. “In Kansas City, on your side of the state, they have an ambitious streetcar program that would put rail transit back into Kansas City for the first time in 60 years,” said Shrout, “This is a national trend where people are rediscovering the benefits of living in the core part of an urban area. Now, we’ve had light rail here in St. Louis since 1993 and I’d like to see that expanded, but under Amendment 7 it would compete for the sales tax that we use locally to fund light rail expansion. We think that’s wrong.”
When asked about rural areas where cars and trucks remain the primary forms of transportation, Shrout says there are also projects in those communities that should be more of a focus. “You know, some of the small towns in Missouri could use better sidewalks, “said Shrout, “I think that’s important and certainly the roads should be kept up to snuff the best that we can. So, I’m not against that. I’m just saying that there’s other modes of transportation that make more sense in urban areas. Yeah, let’s keep the roads up in rural Missouri, but I think this Amendment 7 really goes overboard in that respect.”
Hinson supports Amendment 7 and believes it will benefit communities and roadways throughout Missouri. “Every region across the state, MoDOT went into those areas and asked the people themselves what their concerns were, so those are the ones that made the project list,” said Hinson, “In rural Missouri, most of the projects are resurfacing those lettered roads or those minor numbered roads and they’ll go in and put 2 foot shoulders on with rumble strips on the shoulders.”
Voters are encouraged to be informed before heading to the polls by visiting the Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions website and MoDOT’s proposed project list.