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House gives premlininary approval of $670 million transportation plan

April 04, 2001
By: Jennifer Ginsberg
State Capital Bureau
Links: See the roll-call vote at

JEFFERSON CITY - Only 24 hours after personally lobbying legislators in the Speaker of the House's office, Gov. Bob Holden is one step closer to scoring his first major victory so far this legislative session.

Although Holden's $670 million transportation plan passed by a narrow margin, and a near straight party line vote, the next battle will be in the Republican controlled Senate.

To get to the Senate, the bill faces one more roll-call vote in the House. The House leadership said it hoped to get the bill up for a vote later this morning.

This legislation came after a closed door House Democratic caucus meeting where one member said they were urged to support their parties governor.

Holden's "One Missouri Transportation Plan," which was sponsored by Rep. Gary Wiggins, D-New Cambria, includes a three cent gas tax increase and a 3/4 cent sales tax increase.

If this plan passes, it would take statewide voter approval to take effect and be one of the biggest tax increases in Missouri history.

The plan calls for the allocation of $380 million to highways, roads and bridges, $120 million to interstate improvements, $100 million to public transit, $40 million to state and local cooperation and $30 million to other transportation modes.

The plan also has provisions that lawmakers say would make the Missouri Department of Transportation more accountable to the governor, legislature and taxpayers.

These provisions include a Secretary of Transportation appointed by the Governor, a reconfiguring of the Transportation Commission to be comprised of nine members from each congressional district and several ex officio members. Other provisions include a transportation plan that would be developed by the Secretary of Transportation which would be presented to the Commission for approval on a yearly basis.

Also included in the bill is the .08 blood alcohol content provision.

Although the House's roll-call vote was close, Holden says he is not worried that his plan will pass.

"We have to be very diligent and continue to keep the votes."

"I think the Republican leadership exercised their rights to keep the party in line," Holden said, expressing disappointment that he failed to get no more than two Republicans to support his plan. "They were fearful of the repercussions from the Republican leadership."

While Holden said he is pleased with the way this bill is progressing, he also recognizes that not passing a transportation plan was former Gov. Carnahan's single biggest regret as leader of Missouri.

But, this bill's battle will become harder as it moves into the Senate.

The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, said he was "not excited about a tax increase" and "would like to move a little more slower and have a lot of public input."

He wants to establish an interim committee as a way to build a coalition with the public.

But, this plan only becomes law if it is approved by the vote of a people.

"All we're doing is allowing the will of the people to set the agenda," Holden said.

While Westfall said the committee will give the bill a good reading, he is still doubtful that it will pass out of the Senate this session.