JEFFERSON CITY - At a time when the Missouri Department of Transportation is requesting between $2 to $4 billion in funding to fix Missouri's aging highways, lawmakers have begun considering a new way to generate funds for the state's highway system.
The Joint Committee on Transportation met Tuesday to analyze a Georgia tax plan that would have appropriated funds for the state's own transportation system by implementing a 1 percent sales tax on food and over-the-counter medicine. Scott Smith, the CEO of HNTB, said the plan would have generated $8.5 billion in revenue for Georgia's road and rail maintenance. HNTB is a national infrastructure corporation with offices in Georgia as well as Missouri.
Voters rejected the tax plan in Georgia, but the committee discussed whether a similar plan could be used in Missouri to provide needed funds to the transportation department.
In the first month of the 2012 legislative session, MoDOT's director Kevin Keith told the same committee that Interstate 70 would become a "gravel parking lot" if revenue was not generated. At Thursday's committee meeting Keith said a similar tax plan to Georgia's could generate $750 million in revenue. This amount still falls far short of the multi-billion request from the transportation department.
MoDOT's Outreach Coordinator Bob Brendel said the department's funding has drastically decreased over the past few years.
"Our construction budget over a 6 year period averaged $1.2 billion dollars a year and this year it's just under $700 million," Brendel said.
Brendel also said new construction projects were out of the question given MoDOT's current budget.
"At the level we're funded at right now we're in virtually a maintenance only mode," Brendel said.
The tax plan is not the first idea to come before the General Assembly. Previous ideas have included increasing Missouri's gasoline sales tax and making I-70 a toll road, a proposal which has come under scrutiny from the public and state lawmakers.