State Rep. Bill Reiboldt has traveled the state over the past seven months as part of a group studying how to address the future funding needs for Missouri’s transportation system.
Now Reiboldt, R-Neosho, and two other lawmakers also on the panel will meet Tuesday with Gov. Eric Greitens to discuss the next steps in the effort.
Members of the group — the 21st Century Transportation System Task Force — have heard myriad recommendations on how the state might generate revenues needed to support the state’s system that moves people and materials on roads, rails and waterways.
They’ll be looking to the governor, Reiboldt said, to learn if there is support for a funding plan to take to a vote of the people.
“It’s very important to get him on board,” said Reiboldt, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “Gov. (Jay) Nixon opposed the sales tax endeavor three years ago, and it failed.”
Reiboldt said he liked elements of that plan, which would have imposed a three-fourths cent sales tax increase for transportation, with a 10-year sunset clause to allow voters to determine if they were satisfied with how that money had been spent.
Reiboldt said a number of funding mechanisms have been discussed in public hearings held throughout the state and conducted by the committee, which is comprised of business leaders, including Rudy Farber, of Neosho, Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate and representatives of the governor’s office, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The committee plans to draft a report, including recommendations, by Jan. 1 so it can be ready when the Missouri General Assembly opens its session two days later.
Reiboldt said there is no single consensus among members, “except that everyone sees the need, realizes we need to do something and we can’t kick the can down the road.
“A good transportation system is vital to the state, so people can travel safely and so goods can come into the state and what we produce can go out. It, and education, are so important to our economic development because those are the things that help create and grow good-paying jobs.”
Interest in the issue has been evident, he said, judging by the crowds of between 100 and 150 residents that attended public hearings.
Reiboldt said funding proposals discussed have included boosting state gasoline and diesel taxes, which have not been increased since 1996.
He said Missouri ranks 47th in revenue produced, per mile, for transportation purposes, and 50th in the public safety of its highway network.
Fuel taxes for gas and diesel are 17 cents per gallon in Missouri, which are among the lowest in the U.S. That compares with 26 cents and 27 cents per gallon, respectively, in Kansas, and 21.5 cents and 22.5 cents in Arkansas. In Oklahoma, rates are 17 cents per gallon for gasoline and 14 cents per gallon for diesel.
“But remember, Oklahoma also has toll roads,” Reiboldt noted.
Toll roads are an option that has been looked at by the committee, but they aren’t popular. The representative said there also have been discussions of managed lanes, where there would be charges for some lanes and some others would be free.
“There have been tolls in Missouri. Two bridges were built years ago in Kansas City with tolls that ended when costs were paid. Missouri has a lot of problems now with bridges that have weight limits,” Reiboldt said.
Officials of the trucking industry have told lawmakers they would prefer a fuel hike rather than toll roads, which also has been the preference among many business representatives on the committee, he added.
Susan Redden is a former reporter for The Joplin Globe.