With recent statewide flooding clearly defining the importance of the state’s transportation system, the recent question of shortfalls in transportation funding is also thrown into sharp relief.
The state has been ahead of it’s time regarding transportation policy. Missouri leaders, in the 1920’s, implemented a fuel tax which funded the highway system ten years before the idea was federally implemented. Missouri is also the only state which combines an independent, citizen commission to help oversee transportation policy. The Chairman of that commission, Stephen R. Miller, says, Missouri is in danger of “squandering our inheritance”.
Miller favors an increase in the gas tax. Since it is a fixed amount, it will not follow or adjust to inflation. He says, the 17 cent gas tax only has a “buying power of eight cents, less than half of what it could purchase 20 years ago.
The last time fees were hiked for transportation funding was in 1992. Since then, Missouri has been lagging behind in keeping pace with inflation or other emerging needs. After the passage of Missouri Amendment 3, and on the federal level, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as the prolific slashing of transportation expenses and payroll, Miller says, Missouri is quickly running out of options. He hopes a “new legislative session will give this generation of leaders an opportunity to create their own (transportation) legacy”.