Our View

The Missouri ballot issue that could have improved quality and safety for the majority of the state's residents failed on Tuesday.

Yes, the public was clear that they wanted ethics safeguards for their Legislature; they wanted medical marijuana, they wanted to increase the minimum wage, they even wanted a loosening of the restrictions for bingo.

But what they did not want was to pay an additional 10 cent gas tax to improve roads and bridges in Missouri.

Whether it was the timing — gas prices have been climbing — a moratorium on any new taxes, or a distrust that the government is managing its money in the best way, some 54 percent of the state's voters said "no." The margins were even wider in our readership areas. Jasper, Newton, McDonald and Barton counties soundly rejected Proposition D.

Voters turned down a proposed 10-cent increase in the state gas tax, which would have been phased in over four years. The Missouri tax is 17 cents a gallon, which hasn’t changed since 1996. Every state around Missouri charges a higher gas tax.

Supporters of the fuel-tax increase said it could generate at least $288 million annually, but a large portion of that would go to the Highway Patrol and $123 million for municipalities to fund road construction.

In our view, voters may have balked because not all of the tax was going for road and bridge improvements.

But voters, in turning, down Proposition D:

• Voted against bringing billions of dollars in federal road and bridge money back to Missouri.

• Voted against having out-of-state motorists pay for about one-third of a new program to fix our bad roads and bridges.

• Voted against a 66 percent increase in constitutionally guaranteed money from the state road fund in dollars coming directly back to their hometowns and home counties.

Missouri will continue to pay 49th-lowest motor fuels tax, another sad distinction that will continue, along with the state having the seventh-largest state highway system and the sixth-largest state bridge system.

Top Republican leaders such as Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Senate President Pro-Tem Ron Richard all supported Proposition D, with Parson touring the state to stump for the ballot measure.

Now it will be up to Parson to lead the next legislative session and to find other ways to allocate resources to improve highways, roads and bridges. It's clear that voters are in no mood to see increased fuel taxes at the pump. And no one wants to see more money cut from education funds. We see tax incentives as a likely place to find some savings.

So where will the road lead next?

That will have to be one of the Legislature's top priorities for 2019.